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  • Conner Lantz
    Post count: 4836

    Good Afternoon,
    We are a unionized employer. Our collective agreement requires our permanent employees to serve a 6 month probationary period. However we have a large number of casual staff and I am wondering what our obligation is to follow progressive discipline prior to termination for just cause and if we are able to terminate by providing pay in lieu of notice.
    Our collective agreement states “The Employer shall give permanent full-time and part-time employees the period of termination notification of pay in lieu thereof, in accordance with the minimum requirements of the Employment Standards Code, except when terminated for just cause”. How are casuals to be treated under this article?
    There is also a collective agreement clause that states, ” An employee may be dismissed, suspended, demoted or given a written reprimand for just clause”
    The collective agreement does not have a clause that states there is to be no termination except for just cause.
    Our organization does not currently have a progressive discipline policy.
    Are we able to terminate (and pay notice to) a casual employee without cause? What would be the risk?
    Please let me know if you need anymore information regarding our collective agreement or our workplace policies in order to answer my questions.

    Christine Rowland

    Conner Lantz
    Post count: 4836

    General Rule: Just cause doesn’t apply to probationary employment. In other words, you can terminate probationary employees during the probationary period (90 days in Alberta) for lack of suitability, which is a much easier standard for employers to meet than just cause. Casual employees would likely fall under the probationary employment rules.
    So, if the casual employee has been with you for less than the required 90 days, you don’t need just cause and may not even need to follow your progressive discipline policy since “lack of suitability” is a non-disciplinary standard. In other words, a probationary employee can be unsuitable, even if he/she doesn’t commit any infractions worthy of discipline. Once the 90 days are up, the ESC termination and just cause rules kick in.
    As I interpret the collective agreement, the above rules apply even if the employee is a union member covered by the agreement. So, during the first 3 months, you can apply the lack of suitability standard. Where things get tricky is when employees have more than the 90 days required by the Alberta ESC and less than the 6 months required to end probationary status under the collective agreement. To me, it sounds like the collective agreement is extending the lack of suitability window for 3 extra months beyond the 90 days. But there may be other language clarifying that somewhere else in the agreement. It also depends on the intent of the parties in negotiating that provision.
    To review:
    First 90 days: Lack of suitability, no progressive discipline
    Month 3 to Month 6: For union member: Lack of suitability, no progressive discipline; For non-union member: Just cause, progressive discipline
    After Month 6: Just cause and progressive discipline for all employees
    Hope that helps. Glenn

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