What is Just Cause for Dismissal?

Losing your job can be very stressful. You’ll likely have to balance making ends meet with trying to find a new job. Finding a new job is even more stressful, however, if you were terminated with “just cause”.

What does “Just Cause” mean?

Normally if you are fired from a job, an employer is obligated to either give you notice or pay in lieu of notice. If there is a just cause for your dismissal, the employer has no such obligations. To be dismissed with just cause means that your actions as an employee undermined the employment relationship to a point that the employment contract can be regarded as breached.

A just cause dismissal is known by the Canadian courts as the “capital punishment of employment law” 1. This is because the consequences to the ex-employee are significant. A just cause dismissal can negatively affect your ability to get another job due to a very likely lack of references. Service Canada can also deny your application for Employment Insurance.

How is “Just Cause” determined?

The threshold for a just cause dismissal is quite high. The onus is on the employer to prove that the ex-employee is “guilty of serious misconduct, habitual neglect of duty, incompetence, or conduct incompatible with his duties, or prejudicial to the employer’s business, or if he has been guilty of wilful disobedience to the employer’s orders in a matter of substance.”2 The proof of the ex-employees’ acts can be a single act, an omission, or a series of acts or omissions.

The employer proves their case through evidence. If they do not provide sufficient evidence, the dismissal could be considered wrongful. The employer would then be liable to pay damages.

A just cause dismissal is determined on case-by-case. There are several factors that a judge will consider. These include:

· The severity of the ex-employees misconduct;

· The workplace’s culture;

· The nature of the employer’s work;

· The ex-employees’ position; and

· Whether the ex-employees’ act in question occurred during work or outside the workplace.3

What are examples of a “Just Cause” dismissal?

There are certain actions of misconduct that can cause a just cause dismissal. These include:

· Theft of the employer’s property

· Dishonesty committed against the employer or the company’s clients

· Insubordination

· Competing with the employer’s business

· Sexual harassment

· Misconduct committed during non-working hours (must cause substantial harm to the employer’s business i.e. their reputation).4

This is not an exhaustive list as there could be many other situations that warrant a just cause dismissal. Further, the misconduct of an ex-employee is not enough for a just cause dismissal. The act must also be of such a degree that the employment relationship is undermined. If the degree of the misconduct is not so grave, then other measures are appropriate like warnings. If the misconduct continues, then you may have a case for a just cause dismissal.

Overall, employment laws are complex, and it is important for you to understand your rights. If you have recently been dismissed from a job with cause, you may want to speak to a lawyer about your situation.

If you are looking for more information or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to discuss your matter over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

 1 Tong v Home Depot of Canada Inc., 2004 CanLII 18228 at para 1.

2 R v Arthurs, 1967. CanLII 30.

3 Halsbury’s Laws of Canada (online), Employment, “Termination of the Employment Relationship”(VII.6) at HEM-311 “Summary Dismissal for Just Cause”

4 Ibid.

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