Termination With Cause Ontario: What You Should Know

What is termination with cause?

In Ontario, termination with cause is sometimes also referred to as termination for cause, dismissal with cause, or just cause termination. Termination with cause is the capital punishment in employment law and the employee terminated with cause will not be entitled to reasonable notice of termination, statutory termination pay or statutory severance. 

Termination with cause should be reserved only to the worst workplace violations. The employer must prove that it had just cause to terminate because the employee’s misconduct gave rise to a breakdown of the employment relationship. A just cause termination may be based on various grounds of misconduct. These grounds may include: dishonesty, insubordination, insolence, culpable absenteeism, sexual harassment, conflict of interest, breach of fiduciary duty or criminal conduct.

What happens if you are terminated with cause?

If an employee is terminated for cause, they are not entitled to notice of termination, termination pay, or any severance pay.

Is poor performance termination for cause?

This is an area where employers commonly get it wrong. As the standard for termination with cause is high, poor performance on its own does not always mean an employee should be terminated for cause. Warnings are particularly important when the misconduct relates to poor performance.

Ontario courts have indicated that an employer may dismiss an employee with cause for repeated instances of poor or unacceptable work performance where the employer has shown:

  1. it has established a reasonable and objective standard of work performance,
  2. warned of the consequences of the failure to meet the standard, and
  3. it has given the employee time and assistance to remedy their work performance.

How is termination with cause determined?

Each case is assessed based on its own unique facts, and it is often very difficult for employers to prove just cause. In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act establishes a standard for termination with cause. The employer must prove that the employee engaged in wilful misconduct. The employer must prove the employee’s misconduct was both:

  1. Serious – demonstrable harm has been done to the employer’s operation. The misconduct amounts to a rejection or breach of the employment relationship.
  2. Wilful – the misconduct was intentional or deliberate, or so reckless that it would be considered intentional. The courts describe it as the employee was being bad on purpose.

If the employer fails to prove it had cause to terminate the employee, the termination is treated as a termination without cause, and the employee is then entitled to termination pay and/or severance pay.

What are examples of termination for cause?

Termination for cause can be a single serious act such as theft, dishonesty, insubordination, or physical violence.

A with cause termination can also be less serious repetitive forms of misconduct where the employee has not responded to repeated progressive discipline warnings to improve their conduct.

What to do if terminated with cause?

If you are terminated with cause, it is important that you contact an employment lawyer without delay. The employment lawyers at Monkhouse Law in Toronto are experienced with handling with cause termination cases. We provide free 30-minute phone consultations and can help in assessing your legal options and getting you the severance pay you are entitled to.

Call us for a FREE 30 minute phone consultation at 416-907-9249 or submit a callback request

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