Each year, while updating Just Cause: The Law of Summary
Dismissal in Canada, at least one new judgment stands out for me
— either because of the employer's skill in handling a
challenging situation, or because of the nature or extent of the
employee's misconduct. The recent Ontario Court case,
Chopra v. Easy Plastic Containers (ON, 2014) is noteworthy
for both reasons.
Mr. Chopra was originally hired as a labourer by Easy Plastic in
2001, and was promoted to shift supervisor (nights) in 2005. Over
the period 2007-2009, Mr. Chopra was issued 6 written warnings, the
last of which included a 3-day suspension: 1 — Chopra
permitted an unauthorized person to enter a restricted area; 2
— Chopra allowed three employees to leave work early; 3
— Chopra approved a full skid of deficient product; 4 —
Chopra fell asleep at work (written warning and reassigned to the
day shift); 5 — Chopra's poor performance (ignoring
instructions) resulted in two hours of wasted production; 6 —
Chopra ignored repeated instructions to wear a face mask, as
personal protective equipment. In addition, Mr. Chopra received a
verbal warning for winking at and touching a co-worker (on her
Meanwhile, Mr. Chopra approached a co-worker in the Men's
Room to solicit his help in building a case of harassment against
supervisors, and Mr. Chopra told another co-worker that the
Ministry of Labour officer, who investigated his various
unsubstantiated complaints, was a "rat" who had been paid
off by Easy Plastic. Mr. Chopra's safety complaints to the
Ministry resulted in at least 3 MOL visits to Easy Plastic; he
alleged that his termination was a reprisal for bringing these
concerns to the attention of the MOL.
Referring to the doctrine of cumulative cause, the Ontario Court
concluded that there was just cause to terminate Mr. Chopra's
employment because Easy Plastic had given him ample verbal and
written warnings about poor performance and misconduct, the
cumulative effect being serious and prejudicial (indeed, in at
least one instance, intended to harm Easy Plastic).
Quoting our late former partner, and my Just Cause co-author,
Justice Randy Echlin, the Court held that, "The conclusion
that must be drawn in this instance is that the series of acts
cumulatively do amount to enough 'bricks to constitute a just
Apparently, Easy Legal's patience and effective use of
discipline, not to mention forbearance in the face of an
employee's repeated involvement of the MOL in unsubstantiated
allegations of safety hazards, allowed Mr. Chopra to, shall we say,
build his own "just cause wall".
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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