Canada: “Take This Job And Shove It? Maybe, Maybe Not”: The Supreme Court Of Canada Extends A Dismissed Employee’s Duty To Mitigate

Last Updated: May 16 2008
Article by Dave McKechnie

It is well established that an employee who has been dismissed on a without cause basis, without reasonable notice or compensation, has a duty to mitigate the loss of his employment by seeking new employment. If the employee does not take appropriate steps to find suitable alternative employment, any damages that would otherwise be awarded to him may be reduced.

The Obligation To Continue Employment

In a constructive wrongful dismissal, that is a "dismissal" brought about by an employer's unilateral change to a fundamental term of employment, the duty to mitigate has an additional wrinkle, at least in theory. Several years ago, the Ontario Court of Appeal in Mifsud v. MacMillan Bathurst Inc. (1989), 70 O.R. (2d) 701 held that a reasonable person should continue in his current employment notwithstanding a constructive dismissal when "the salary offered is the same, the working notice conditions are not substantially different or the work demeaning, and the personal relationships involved are not acrimonious".

In a surprising decision released last week that follows the reasoning in Mifsud, the Supreme Court of Canada held that an employee who had been dismissed without notice was required to accept a subsequent offer of employment from his former employer in order to mitigate his damages.

In Evans v. Teamsters Local Union No. 31 (S.C.C. as yet unreported), the plaintiff was employed for over 23 years with Teamsters Local Union No. 31 ("Teamsters") when he was dismissed without cause and without notice. After five months of continued pay while attempting to negotiate a resolution, the Teamsters required the plaintiff to return to his old position for a period of 19 months, essentially providing the plaintiff with fixed-term employment in order to mitigate his damages. The plaintiff did not return and pursued a claim for wrongful dismissal.

A 6 to 1 majority of the Court held that there is no distinction between an employee who has been constructively dismissed and an employee who has been dismissed without sufficient notice. In either case, if the employer offers the employee continued employment or employment in another position, the dismissed employee may be required to accept such employment in order to mitigate his damages.

Writing for the majority, Mr. Justice Bastarache stated that "in the absence of conditions rendering the return to work unreasonable, on an objective basis, an employee can be expected to mitigate damages by returning to work for the dismissing employer". The majority of the Court indicated that the work atmosphere would be the most crucial element in determining whether it was reasonable for the employee to refuse the position. Other barriers could be a significant reduction in stature, change in the location of work, or a significant change in the employee's duties. It is important that the Court held that any alleged barriers to a return to work must be viewed on an objective basis, and not from the point of view of the particular employee.

What is most surprising about the Court's decision in Evans is that it imposed a positive obligation on the plaintiff to accept re-employment with the Teamsters, notwithstanding that his employment had been terminated several months previously.

What This Means For Employers

While the Court's treatment of the facts in this case is somewhat curious, the principle put forward is consistent with cases such as Mifsud. While it will likely be the exception when an employer is able to demonstrate that the employee should have accepted the new employment, an employer has the capability of reducing its notice obligation in the right situation.

In our view the Court's decision in Evans does not drastically change the law surrounding the duty to mitigate, although the case is helpful for employers who can make a good faith offer of employment to a dismissed employee. Any offer to the employee should take into account the employee's previous compensation and position the employee held, what the working atmosphere would be like and what changes the employer could make to ensure that the working relationships are as cordial as possible.

However, the reality is that trial courts have consistently distinguished Mifsud. It is likely that trial courts will treat the Court's decision in Evans in the same way: acknowledging the principle as valid but finding on the particular facts that the employee did not have an obligation to accept the same employer's offer of employment.

An additional concern for employers is the Court's comment in Evans that so-called "Wallace" damages should not be subject to mitigation. Wallace damages, which result from a prior Supreme Court of Canada decision, have been characterized as an extension of the notice period in order to take into account an employer's bad faith conduct at the time of termination. The notice period extension recognized that such conduct may impact the employee's ability to seek suitable alternative employment. However, by making such damages exempt from mitigation income, the Court has effectively turned Wallace damages into an award of punitive damages against the employer.

Any member of our Employment and Labour Relations Group would be pleased to discuss the duty to mitigate and the Court's decision in Evans.

The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

© Copyright 2008 McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Dave McKechnie
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.