An important ruling came down from the Supreme Court of Canada
last year concerning unfair dismissal which could impact hundreds
of thousands of workers and employers. The court ruled that
non-unionized workers who are covered by the Canada Labour Code,
such as those working in banking, telecommunications, marine
shipping, and at some Crown corporations, enjoy protections from
unfair dismissal that are similar to the protections enjoyed by
workers who are covered by a collective agreement. There are
approximately 820,000 federally-regulated workers in Canada,
500,000 of whom are non-unionized and will be most impacted by this
Dismissed without cause
In 2009, a supervisor at a Crown corporation was suddenly fired
with severance pay despite having a spotless disciplinary record at
the company he worked at for more than four years. That supervisor
claimed that his firing was in retaliation for having blown the
whistle on corrupt practices at the company. The individual,
however, was not part of a union, which his employer claimed meant
that it did not have to provide him with cause for his dismissal.
However, because he worked in a federally-regulated industry, he
claimed he did have the right to complain about his dismissal to an
adjudicator under the Canada Labour Code. After a series of
appeals, the case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Worker cannot be fired without cause
The country's top court sided with the former supervisor and
argued that when the relevant provisions in the Canada Labour Code
were passed in 1978, it was the intent of Parliament to grant
non-unionized federally-regulated workers the right to complain to
an adjudicator about a potentially unfair dismissal. The court
noted that there had been 1,740 cases since those provisions had
been passed. In all but 18 of them the adjudicators in those cases
affirmed the right of the employee to complain about an unfair
The ruling means that the supervisor can now go back to the
adjudicator and file a complaint about his termination. That could
mean that if his complaint is successful he may ultimately be
entitled to compensation or reinstatement. More importantly, it
means that non-unionized workers who work in federally-regulated
industries now must be provided with cause when they are dismissed,
regardless of whether or not they are provided with a severance
The case is an important one for many employers and employees.
It is also a reminder of how quickly employment and business law
can change. For both employers and employees, the case should serve
as an example of why it is so important to retain legal counsel
when dealing with an employment contract dispute. An experienced
law firm can help clients resolve their disputes in a satisfactory
manner, either through direct negotiations or, if necessary, by
going to court.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The arbitrator's decision covered a number of issues including whether the termination was appropriate and whether the City had breached the grievor's human rights. The following, however, will focus on the privacy issue raised.
In my December 15, 2016 article, Federal Government's Cannabis Report: What does it mean for employers?, I noted the Report's1 suggestion that there was a lack of research to reliably determine when individuals are impaired by cannabis.
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