What Does It Mean To Be Fired Without Cause?

fired without cause

In Ontario, employers can legally fire an employee without cause at any time and for any legal reason. There are two ways employees can be let go: with cause, and without cause.

If you have been fired without cause, that means that you have not committed any type of serious employee misconduct. You may be terminated for any number of reasons, such as an economic downturn, cost-cutting, poor work performance, restructuring of a company or even simply a lack of “fit” in the workplace.

But just as an employer is entitled to terminate an employee for any legal reason at any time without cause, an employee is correspondingly entitled to termination pay or reasonable notice upon dismissal without cause.

Can you get fired for no reason?

Yes, so long as your employer provides you with proper termination pay or reasonable notice, either under the Employment Standards Act, or the common law, an employee can be fired for any reason, other than those outlined below.

For what reasons can you not be fired?

Your employer can fire you for any reason except reasons which contravene the law.

The Ontario Human Rights Code

An employee cannot be terminated based on a protected ground in the Ontario Human Rights Code. These reasons include:

  • Citizenship;
  • Race;
  • Place of origin/ethnic origin;
  • Colour;
  • Ancestry;
  • Disability;
  • Age;
  • Creed;
  • Sex/pregnancy;
  • Family status/marital status;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Gender identity/expression; or,
  • Record of offences.

If an employee is terminated as a result of one of the above-protected characteristics, even if they have been provided termination pay or reasonable notice, this is still an illegal termination.


An employee may not be terminated for exercising their rights under the Employment Standards Act, or the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In those cases, termination is illegal.

Does your employer have to provide the reason you were fired without cause?

No, typically it will be sufficient for your employer to inform you that you have been terminated on a without cause basis, and to provide you with the details of any termination or severance pay you may be entitled to. Employers do not have to justify themselves or provide any explanation when terminating an employee.

What is the difference between with cause and without cause?

Being terminated with cause means you are being let go because of some sort of misconduct which makes continuing the employment relationship untenable. This often results from serious actions such as theft, fraud, sexual harassment or violence. In this case, if an employee has committed such serious misconduct and they are terminated, they are not entitled to reasonable notice or pay in lieu thereof.

Being terminated without cause means it may be based on factors completely external to the employee, such as economic downturn or corporate restructuring, or it may be based on an employee’s performance or “fit” in the workplace, but the conduct does not rise to the level of dismissal for cause and the employee is therefore still entitled to notice under the Employment Standards Act or the common law.

What are working notice and pay in lieu of notice?

If you are fired without cause, you are entitled to reasonable notice or severance pay. This notice period is intended to provide dismissed employees with the opportunity to find new employment. The length of the notice period is dependent upon whether employees have a valid termination clause in their employment contract, which may limit them to the Employment Standards Act minimum length of notice, or to common law notice.

An employee, under the Employment Standards Act, is entitled to notice based upon their years of service (typically 1 week per 1 year of service). If an employee is entitled to common law notice, the notice period is based upon a fulsome assessment of numerous factors including their years of service, age, seniority, character of employment and availability of similar employment.

This notice can either be “working notice” or “pay in lieu” of notice. This simply means that upon termination, an employee who was entitled to 4 weeks’ notice would either work those 4 weeks or would be paid the equivalent of their compensation throughout their notice period. An employee’s severance package may include salary continuation for the notice period, accrued bonus that is pro-rated for the notice period, unpaid wages, accrued vacation pay, benefits continuation and RRSP and CPP contributions for the notice period.

If you have been terminated without cause and are unsure of what to do next, it is important that you move forward with knowledge of your rights and your options. Employment Lawyers at Monkhouse Law are experienced in navigating claims of termination without cause and can provide you with the perspective, information, and advocacy you need to best protect your interests.

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