Throughout many locations in Canada, most notably in Ottawa, protests occurred in response to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the foundation of democracy in Canada, and contained within this Charter is Section 2(c) is the freedom of peaceful assembly. In other words, the freedom to participate or attend a protest.
If you, as an employee, decided to attend or participate in this protest as a private citizen, could you be terminated? More importantly, could you be terminated with cause?
Participating in a Protest: Termination Without Cause
Can you be terminated without cause if you attend or participate in a vaccine mandate protest? The short answer: yes.
An employer has the right to terminate an employee for nearly any reason, so long as adequate severance pay is offered. Therefore, if an employer discovers that you either attended or supported a protest, and they wish to terminate you, they have the right to do so.
In the event that you are terminated without cause, it is highly unlikely that you will be offered an adequate severance package. Accordingly, we highly advise that you speak to one of our legal representatives to learn about your additional entitlements.
Participating in a Protest: Termination With Cause
Can you be terminated with cause if you attend or participate in a vaccine mandate protest? The short answer: maybe.
In short, a termination for cause suggests that the alleged misconduct is so severe that the employment relationship has become irreparable. Although there exist several justifications for a with cause termination, the key focus here is: off-duty misconduct.
The concept of off-duty misconduct is continuously evolving. In these circumstances, what you do as a private citizen, outside of work, can be deemed to be misconduct if that conduct could negatively impact the image, brand or business of your employer, or otherwise impact the well-being of coworkers.
If an employer is to allege cause, they must show that the employee’s alleged misconduct was both:
- Serious – demonstrable harm has been done to the employer’s operation; and
- Wilful – the misconduct was intentional or deliberate
If you are simply seen at a protest, you cannot be lawfully terminated with cause. What matters is what you were doing there and how your appearance could impact your employer. For example, if you were simply amongst a crowd of participants, this may not warrant such a termination. If, however, you were advertising symbols of hate, a with cause termination would be warranted.
In the event that you are terminated with cause, it is likely that you will receive zero severance pay, no reference letter, and difficulty receiving employment insurance. We highly recommend you contact one of our associates to review your matter to determine your entitlements.
So, what are your rights? Key Takeaways
In the event that you have already participated or attended a protest, or you may intend to in the future, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Your conduct at a protest can play a significant role in your relationship with your employer;
- Any conduct can justify a without cause termination, so long as you are paid severance; and
- You can be terminated with cause for participating or attending a protest, so long as your conduct detrimentally impacts your employer or your co-workers.
This was written by Boris Alexander, Employment Lawyer at Monkhouse Law. Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm in Toronto with a focus on workers’ issues.
If you have found yourself terminated from your employment as a result of your attendance or participation at a protest, or if you simply wish to learn more about your rights, we recommend that you contact us to speak to a lawyer about your specific circumstances. Give us a call at 416-907-9249 or fill out this quick form. We offer a free 30-minute phone consultation.