Canada: Superior Court Finds Circumstances Unreasonable To Mitigate Reasonable Notice

Summary

  • The Ontario Superior Court of Justice (the "Court"), in a recent summary judgment decision, has provided further clarity with respect to the duty to mitigate by accepting new employment in the context of a sale of business.
  • Imperial Oil Limited ("Imperial") terminated the plaintiffs' employment in connection with the sale of part of its business to Mac's Convenience Stores Inc. ("Mac's"). The central issue in the case was whether the plaintiffs' entitlements to reasonable notice could be reduced as a result of a failure to mitigate because they had turned down job offers from Mac's.
  • For the reasons outlined below, the Court found that the plaintiffs, who were both long service, managerial level employees, did not have a duty to mitigate their damages by accepting Mac's offers of employment.
  • Taking into account their individual circumstances, each plaintiff was consequently awarded 26 months' notice, with the Court also effectively reaffirming that there is no 24-month "cap" on damages in lieu of reasonable notice of termination.
  • Key Facts Regarding the Offers of Employment:

    • The employees were kept apprised of the ongoing negotiations between Imperial and Mac's in the early phases, but did not receive information on how the terms of their employment would vary after the sale of Imperial's business. In particular, they were not guaranteed a permanent, comparable salary, they were informed that they would receive reduced benefits, their years of services with Imperial would not be recognized by Mac's, and their annual vacation entitlements would be reduced.
    • Mac's offered to compensate the plaintiffs for reduced benefits by way of a "lump sum gratuitous payment" but did not disclose the amount of the payment.
    • Mac's offered to continue the plaintiffs' base salaries for 18 months but did not indicate what their salaries would be after that time period.
    • The plaintiffs declined Mac's job offers because they viewed the terms of employment offered as less favourable than their terms of employment with Imperial.
  • Key Findings:

    • Advance Knowledge of Sale Does Not Reduce Notice Period. The fact that the plaintiffs were aware of the sale in advance was not a proper basis for shortening the notice period, as was argued by Imperial. To be effective, the Court held that notice of termination must be clear and unambiguous. In this case, the employees' knowledge that a sale of the business was being negotiated did not constitute clear notice of termination. In addition, the plaintiffs would not have known to look for alternative work in these circumstances because they were told comparable employment would be offered to them by Mac's.
    • No Duty to Mitigate - Refusal of Job Offers was Reasonable. The Court concluded that it would not be reasonable to require the plaintiffs to mitigate their damages by accepting Mac's offers, in light of the following factors:

      1. Mac's offers of employment did not provide for terms of employment comparable to those they enjoyed with Imperial, particularly in respect of salary and benefits;
      2. The offers were made by Mac's before the plaintiffs' employment was terminated (rather than at the time of termination or after). The Court found that an employer cannot successfully argue that an employee failed to mitigate his or her damages by working for an employer where the offer of alternative employment was made before termination;
      3. The offers indicated that Mac's expected the plaintiffs to sign releases provided by Imperial, creating a link between both documents. The releases were to be signed in exchange for an undisclosed "lump sum gratuitous payment." The Court found that it was reasonable for the plaintiffs to refuse to sign the releases because in doing so, they would have relinquished the option to pursue any shortfall in their entitlement to damages in lieu of notice; this, by extension, made it reasonable for the plaintiffs to turn down the job offers from Mac's; and
      4. It would not be reasonable to require the plaintiffs to accept an offer that did not recognize their years of service with Imperial. In a sale of business context, it is an implied term that years of service will be recognized by the purchaser; and, where there is an express term to the contrary, it is open to the employee to reject the offer.

Risk

  • It is a common misconception, in a sale of business context, that where a purchaser offers employment to the vendor's employees in connection with the sale, those employees must accept such offers in order to mitigate their damages from the loss of their employment with the vendor. Vendors should be aware that employees may not be expected to mitigate their damages by accepting employment on terms that are either not made clear or are not comparable to their current terms of employment.
  • Whether there is an obligation to mitigate damages by accepting an offer of employment with a purchaser is a fact-specific inquiry that will vary in each case.
  • It has been confirmed that there is no longer a 24-month cap on the reasonable notice period. Although awards in excess of 24 months' notice are rare, the potential for liability exceeding 24 months' is certainly real.

Action

  • Where an employer is contemplating the termination of employment of a long service employee, it should be mindful of the fact that there is no "24-month cap" in assessing any reasonable notice entitlements.
  • Offers of employment in a sale of business context must be reasonable, provide for comparable terms of employment, and be clearly and properly communicated in order for a vendor to be able to argue that its employees should have accepted such offers to mitigate their loss of employment in connection with the sale. The foregoing can and should be negotiated between the parties to the transaction.

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.

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

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

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
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
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions