Ever since vaccines have become widely available, many employers have implemented mandatory vaccination policies. Recent arbitration decisions like Unifor Local 973 v Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Limited and Power Workers’ Union v Elexicon Energy Inc show that, generally, these policies will be found to be legal. But if an employer wants to terminate an employee for just cause who refuses to get vaccinated, the best course of action is to provide a proper severance package.
Some employers have been firing employees for just cause and offering no severance packages, based on their refusal to follow such policies. There has yet to be a court case that definitively shows us whether refusal to get vaccinated is enough to be terminated for just cause.
The Ontario Court of Appeal recently held in Render v Thyssen Krupp Elevator (Canada) Limited that just cause requires an employer to prove employee misconduct that is “incompatible with the fundamental terms of the employment relationship”. Simply going against workplace policy does not necessarily mean it is misconduct. After all, workplace policies can be wrong or illegal. Whether or not to get vaccinated is a personal choice, and it usually should not constitute misconduct for just cause. If your employment arrangement involves lower risk, such as primarily working from home, an employer’s argument for just cause becomes even weaker.
Employers seeking to enforce a mandatory vaccination policy should avoid terminating employees without offering a proper severance package. If you feel you’ve been terminated for just cause because you refused to get vaccinated, reach out to Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers to speak with an experienced employment lawyer online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.
Author: Sohrab Naderi