What is Just Cause Dismissal?
An employee may be terminated for cause if the employer has proof that the employee has engaged in conduct which is serious or egregious enough to undermine the entire employment relationship between the parties. Simply put, just cause generally requires proof of severe misconduct, gross negligence, or an ongoing pattern of incompetence on behalf of the employee. Some examples of conduct that may establish “just cause” are as follows:
- Theft or fraud in the workplace;
- Persistent incompetence or negligence in completing assigned duties;
- Harassment or abuse towards other coworkers, clients or customers;
- A clear pattern of insubordination or intentional non-compliance;
- Off-duty misconduct which has caused substantial harm to the employer; and
- Engagement in competing business activities which caused established economic harm to the employer.
Why Should Employers Proceed With Caution?
Unlike a “without cause” termination, dismissal for just cause does not require an employer to provide termination notice or severance. In addition, employees terminated for cause may be unable to collect Employment Benefits (EI). Therefore, the bar for proving cause is quite high, and the onus rests on the employer to establish that cause was warranted. If the employer fails to provide sufficient evidence of cause, the dismissal may be considered wrongful dismissal and the employer may be liable for damages.
Why Hire A Lawyer?
As set out above, employers rarely have just cause to terminate an employee. Even in situations where cause seems fairly obvious, an employer is still required to meet the stringent legal test to establish cause under the law. In many cases, an employer is much better off terminating an employee without cause, especially if the termination pay and/or severance owed is fairly nominal. The employment lawyers at West Legal can help review an employer’s argument and advise whether or not cause is actually warranted. Having an experienced lawyer weigh in can help limit the extensive employer liability that often is created by inappropriate just cause dismissals.