What is termination for just cause?
Employers can terminate employees immediately without notice or severance for bad behaviour. This is known as termination for just cause.
What constitutes "just cause" at law?
To establish just cause, your employer will have to prove in court that your conduct was so severe, it completely crippled the employment relationship.
Courts also consider the surrounding context. For instance, if you've been employed for many years, have never been disciplined, and your actions did not cause any serious harm to your employer, then chances are your employer does not have just cause to terminate you.
Just cause termination is considered an extremely harsh punishment, which is why it is very difficult to prove in court. It's been called the "capital punishment" of employment law. For this reason, just cause termination is usually reserved for the worst workplace offenders.
What are examples of just cause termination?
Most terminations for just cause arise from misconduct, disobedience, neglect of duty, dishonesty, or some form of discrimination/harassment in the workplace.
Some habitual misconduct can lead to termination for just cause if after several clear warnings, the employee has not stopped the bad behaviour. Examples include unexplained lateness or absences, or failing to complete work assignments, or repeatedly violating your employer's work policies.
Some conduct is so severe that it can support a just cause termination without any prior warnings. Examples might include theft, workplace violence, or serious dishonesty.
It is impossible to give any hard and fast rules for determining just cause in the workplace. Just cause termination is all about context. For instance, if you miss a month of work without explanation, this would establish the grounds for a just cause termination.
However, if you miss a month of work because of a disability, not only is that insufficient cause, your employer could owe you damages under the Ontario Human Rights Code and/or Canadian Human Rights Act for terminating you. The law on just cause termination is not always intuitive. No one should reach any conclusions about a just cause termination without input from an experienced employment lawyer.
Can I be terminated for just cause for making mistakes?
In most cases, no. Making an honest mistake at work (even a bad one) does not mean your employer has just cause to terminate your employment.
Only the most severe cases of incompetence can lead to a termination for just cause. Your employer must not only prove that you failed to meet your work standard, but that this standard was clearly communicated to you, that you were instructed on how to improve your performance, that you were warned repeatedly that you must improve or be terminated for just cause, and that after all that, you remained incapable of meeting the standard.
What can I do if my employer has terminated me for just cause?
Alleging just cause is a long way from proving it. Any employee terminated for just cause should consult with an experienced employment lawyer. In the vast majority of cases, employees who have been fired for just cause end up receiving wrongful dismissal damages from their employer out of court.
What if my employer has fabricated a termination for just cause?
Unfortunately, some employers will allege just cause simply to play "hardball" in settlement negotiations, in hopes of saving a few dollars. Courts are very harsh on employers who are simply looking for a "free lunch". If your employer fabricates a case for just cause, you may be entitled to seek special damages in your wrongful dismissal case.
What can Hyde HR Law do for me?
The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts on just cause terminations. If you have been terminated for just cause, we can advise you as to the strength of your case, write a demand letter to your employer, and represent you in your wrongful dismissal proceedings. We have negotiated countless settlements on behalf of clients who were terminated for just cause. Contact us today.