In very limited circumstances, employment may properly be terminated for cause without any prior notice to the employee. In such cases, the terminated employee has no claim to compensation or severance.
It is very difficult under Ontario employment law for employers to prove “just cause” for termination of employment.
Generally, where an employer has concerns based on an employee’s performance or even misconduct, the employer must warn or advise the employee of the specific concerns requiring attention, and the employer must further grant reasonable opportunity to the employee to remedy and improve performance or conduct in the areas of concern.
If no improvement or change is demonstrated after a prolonged period and the presentation of repeated warnings, usually in written form, an employer may consider whether grounds present for termination of employment with cause.
As well, in rare circumstances of gross misconduct, grounds may also present for immediate termination with cause. Examples of such circumstances could include theft or fraud, grossly unsafe workplace practices, blatant and gross negligence, serious and intentional dereliction of employment duties, or fundamental breach of specific, critical term of an employment contract.
An employer may also, in some circumstances, have lawful grounds to take reasonable disciplinary steps, such as short suspensions to redress employee misconduct.
In short, in most cases, it is difficult for Ontario employers to establish just cause for termination in a court proceeding, unless written warnings have been provided and adequate opportunity for improvement has been provided. In most cases, reasonable notice is required.
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