Ontario Employment Law: Wrongfully Dismissed or About to Be?

Ontario Employment Law

Welcome to WISE LAW’s Introduction to Ontario Employment Law, our primer on the legal framework that applies to wrongful dismissal, discrimination, harassment and other employment-related issues in Ontario workplaces.

This article will provide you with an overview of the following topics:

  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Constructive dismissal
  • How to respond to a proposed severance package
  • Unwarranted warnings, progressive discipline or performance improvement plans
  • Workplace bullying and harassment
  • Sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination
  • Racism, age discrimination and other human rights violations in the workplace
  • The fairness and enforceability of employment contracts
  • Other workplace agreements such as non-competition and non-solicitation agreements

This article applies only to non-unionized workplaces. In unionized environments, collective agreements provide for employees’ responsibilities, protections and remedies, and employee concerns must be addressed through their unions and the grievance processes in place.

The general information on this website is not a substitute for legal advice.  Every employee’s specific circumstances are unique. You should consult a lawyer immediately for legal advice where your employment has been terminated or where you believe your job may in be jeopardy.

If you have been wrongfully dismissed or have a serious concern regarding your employment, the Toronto employment lawyers at WISE LAW will be glad to assist. We may be consulted by telephone at (416) 972-1800 or by email without fee or obligation.

Email WISE LAW with your Employment Law Question

Problems in the Workplace?

Are you seeing signs that something is not right at your workplace?

  • Have you received a “warning letter” from your employer that you feel is unfair or unjustified?
  • Have you been advised that your position or location will be changing?
  • Have your responsibilities been unilaterally taken away?
  • Is a personality or professional conflict with a colleague or superior interfering with your ability to do your job?
  • Is your workload being dramatically reduced or unreasonably “piled on?”
  • Are you regularly at the receiving end of discriminatory or harassing actions or comments?
  • Are you hearing rumblings at work about changes ahead that may affect your position or livelihood?
  • Have you brought a legitimate workplace concern to the attention of your superiors, without an appropriate response or corrective action?
  • Is your gut telling you that your position may be coming to an end?

Each of these circumstances may foreshadow problems ahead.

While there is no way of knowing exactly what the future will bring, it is possible to arm yourself with basic knowledge of your rights and entitlements, long before your concerns may regrettably be proven justified.

We hope that this article will be of assistance if you are having problems in your workplace.

We also stress the importance of obtaining qualified legal advice early. If a serious workplace problem appears to be looming, consult with a qualified Toronto Employment Lawyer. With legal advice and guidance, you can ensure you protect yourself most advantageously as your workplace issues develop.

Email WISE LAW with your Employment Law Enquiry

Ontario Employment Law:  Common Law and Legislation

Two separate streams of Ontario employment law govern the province’s employer and employee relationships.  These are the legislative stream and the common law.

In terms of legislation, Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) sets out minimum standards that must be met in Ontario workplaces, with provision for everything from minimum wage, vacation and overtime pay to the availability of family-related leaves and other leaves of absence.

The Act also provides for the minimum entitlements of employees who are terminated without cause.  The ESA is administered by the Ministry of Labour, through its Employment Standards Program, which investigates and adjudicates workplace complaints and enforces compliance with the Act. 

The maximum compensation that is available upon termination of employment under the ESA is 34 weeks ordinary salary.  This 34 weeks is comprised of:

  • One week’s compensation per year of service, as notice or termination pay, up to a maximum of  eight weeks,  plus
  • One additional week’s compensation per year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks, as severance pay.  To be eligible for severance pay, an employee must have at least five years of service for an employer with payroll in excess of $2.5 million dollars per year.

Ontario common law provides for significant, additional financial entitlements for employees who have been terminated without cause, or otherwise wrongfully dismissed.  These additional common law entitlements will typically greatly exceed the minimum termination and severance provisions of the ESA.

The entitlements of wrongfully dismissed employees are determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis.  The typical range of compensation awarded to successful Plaintiffs can approach up to one month’s pay for each year of service (or more), to an approximate maximum of 24 months.  Wrongfully dismissed, very-long service employees have only very occasionally been awarded more than 24 months’ pay in lieu of notice by Ontario courts.

Many Ontario employers mistakenly believe their obligations upon termination are capped at the ESA minimums, and are genuinely surprised to learn otherwise.   Employers and employees alike are encouraged to obtain legal advice from a qualified employment lawyer whenever a termination of employment is contemplated or has occurred, so that they can be informed about their respective rights, entitlements and obligations and carefully assess the best way forward.

Email WISE LAW with your Employment Law Enquiry