In the recent decision by the Superior Court of Ontario in Russell v The Brick Warehouse case, the court has taken a firm stance against employers that fail to meet the acceptable standard for carrying out dismissals. In addition to awarding a severance, the court awarded $25,000 in moral damages for the content of the employer’s termination letter and their behaviour following the dismissal.
This case considered the notice entitlements of a 57-year-old Senior Supervisor earning $75,000 annually with 36 years of service. This long service employee was awarded 24 months of reasonable notice. In deciding to award $25,000 in moral damages, the court criticized the employer’s “lack of transparency and fair dealing” by failing to advise the employee in the termination letter that he would be provided his full statutory notice and benefit entitlements even if he rejected their severance offer.
In Russell v The Brick Warehouse, even though the employer-provided the employee with his statutory entitlements within 10 days of the dismissal, the court felt that was not sufficient to rectify the deficient termination letter. To understand why, it is important to keep in mind that many employees do not know their rights on termination, and an employer’s failure to explain those minimum statutory entitlements can leave an uninformed employee with the false impression that they could wind up with nothing if they don’t accept the employer’s offer. This is especially true when those offers are often lower than an employee may be entitled to, and time-limited.
In addition to that issue with the termination letter, the court also considered the employer’s failure to provide vacation pay and some benefits through the statutory notice period.
This very employee-friendly case Russell v The Brick Warehouse sets a high standard for employers to meet when dismissing employees and serves as a reminder that statutory minimums should be promptly and clearly provided. While some employers and seasoned HR professionals struggle to interpret the complex statutory notice requirements and may inadvertently shortchange employees, this case shows that the courts may have little sympathy for employers when an employee is deprived of their proper entitlements or when they get a sense that the employer is not dealing with the employee fairly.
To better understand your entitlements and obligations under employment laws, we encourage employers and employees to seek legal advice. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you’re looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.