Mastering the Complex Landscape of Employee Termination: A Guide for Employers
The professional realm can sometimes require difficult decisions and complex proceedings, especially concerning employment termination. Whether it’s the intricacies of ensuring respectful communication during termination, understanding the distinctions between ‘dismissal for cause’ and ‘dismissal without cause,’ or the nuances of employee resignations, the process is rife with legalities and sensitivities that employers must heed. This article delves into these topics, aiming to provide clarity and understanding to navigate these situations with both legal precision and empathetic discernment.


Navigating the Delicate Process of Employee Termination


Apart from cases of constructive dismissal, a face-to-face discussion with the employee, accompanied by a written notice, is essential, no matter the cause of termination. Right after this meeting, it’s important for the employer to jot down the discussions for future reference. The interaction should always be carried out with utmost respect and professionalism. Any kind of disrespectful or aggressive behavior, no matter the grounds for termination, can lead to higher damages if the case becomes a subject of litigation. To ensure the employee’s privacy and dignity, it’s better to allow them to collect their personal belongings from their workspace outside of standard working hours.



Understanding ‘Dismissal for Cause’ vs. ‘Dismissal Without Cause’: Implications for Employers


Employers need to differentiate between “dismissal for cause” and “dismissal without cause.” The rules concerning compensation for an employee upon termination are dictated by the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the established common law. Dismissals might also fall under the scrutiny of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, based on the termination’s context. An employer might have several justifications for ending an employee’s contract, ranging from financial difficulties, restructuring decisions, to interpersonal issues or acts of defiance by the employee. Often, in the eyes of an employer, these reasons are sufficient to justify a dismissal. However, the key issue is whether these reasons legally support a “dismissal for cause,” thus denying the employee any termination compensation. If not, the termination will be considered “without cause,” and the employee would be eligible for compensation as per the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000, common law, or a pre-existing employment agreement if it’s in place.


The Importance of Written Confirmation in Employee Resignations

Emotional outbursts like “I’m done with this place!!!!” might not be legally binding (Movileanu v. Valcom Manufacturing Group Inc., 2007 CanLII 48989 (ON SC). To determine genuine resignation, an objective standpoint is essential.

It’s essential to have clear and undeniable proof of the employee’s intention to leave. Employees can take back their decision to resign unless the employer has taken steps based on that initial statement, which might cause harm to the company. Context is vital when interpreting statements or actions as resignations. The situation and its surroundings help to evaluate if an unbiased observer would perceive them as a genuine intent to resign. Moreover, how long an employee insists they’ve resigned can influence the judgment on the sincerity of their resignation.


Employees are legally bound to provide adequate notice before resigning, irrespective of whether there’s a formal employment contract. This notice helps employers secure a replacement within a reasonable timeframe. Not providing this notice goes against the employment terms.


If an employee hints at leaving, ensure that they provide a written confirmation. Avoid penning it for them. And always remember to generate an employment record. It should be noted that employees resigning of their own accord don’t qualify for termination benefits.


Grounds for dismissal due to Misconduct


When an employee is dismissed on grounds of misconduct, they typically forgo any compensation. Factors such as severe incompetence, doubts about an employee’s honesty, performance issues, or illicit drug usage could prompt an employer to consider terminating the employment due to misconduct.


The legal system uses a comprehensive approach to evaluate the cited behavior, gauging if dismissing the employee for the mentioned cause aligns with the degree of the misconduct. In simpler terms, the courts deliberate whether the stated behavior severely damages the trust in the employment relationship. Not every misdemeanor leads to immediate termination, so it’s crucial to weigh the employee’s behavior against the resulting consequence. It’s the employer’s responsibility to convincingly show that termination was the only plausible solution based on the available evidence.


When evaluating the disputed behavior, various factors come into play:


  • The seriousness of the employee’s misconduct.
  • Determining if the behavior in question is merely a disagreement point for the employer or trivial issues versus more grave violations that any sensible individual would find unacceptable.
  • Assessing if the misconduct goes against the employer’s operational values or breaches a tacit term of the employment contract.
  • Checking if the behavior goes against any explicitly mentioned terms of the employment agreement.
  • Contemplating if the action just showcases the employee’s lapse in judgment.
  • Evaluating the employee’s responsibility in any alleged criminal activities or behaviors resembling criminal conduct.
  • Deciphering if the action is detrimental to the employer’s legitimate business operations.
  • Identifying if the misconduct breaks the implicit duty of loyalty, fiduciary obligations, or a clearly stated employment condition, resulting in a breach of the employment agreement.
  • Seeking evidence of direct or potential harm to the employer.


In a legal context, to decide if an employer had valid reasons for terminating an employee due to misconduct, the court will study “the entire scope of the employee’s responsibilities, including the nature and gravity of the wrongdoing, to gauge if it can still fit within the framework of the employment relationship.”


Final Thoughts


The world of professional interactions, while dynamic, demands a nuanced understanding of both legal mandates and the human element inherent in any employer-employee relationship. From the initiation to the culmination of employment, each step requires careful deliberation. As one traverses these challenging terrains, having a well-rounded perspective, supplemented occasionally by the insights of seasoned professionals such as employment lawyers, can make all the difference in ensuring fair and equitable decisions.


About the Author:

Roberts & Obradovic Law is an employment law firm operating in Toronto, Ontario. With a focus on employment law matters, they provide expert legal advice and representation to both employers and employees. Their extensive experience in navigating complex employment issues, including constructive dismissal cases. To learn more about their expertise and comprehensive range of services, please visit their website at