What is “Just-Cause” Termination in Alberta?
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. In short, the employer must have proof that the employee’s conduct constituted a “fundamental breach” of the employment contract. When an employee is terminated for cause, the employer is not obligated to provide reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice.
What Are Some Examples of “Just Cause”?
An employer may terminate an employee for cause if they can establish evidence that the employee:
- Engaged in theft or fraud in the workplace;
- Persistently incompetent or negligent in completing their assigned duties;
- Engaged in harassment or abuse towards other coworkers, clients or customers;
- Established a clear pattern of insubordination or intentional non-compliance;
- Engaged in off-duty misconduct which caused substantial harm to the employer; or
- Engaged in competing business activities which caused established economic harm to the employer
Is Every Termination in Which a Reason is Provided a “Just Cause” Termination?
Not necessarily. Proving just-cause can be difficult. In Alberta, the onus is on the employer to establish cause for termination. 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. Due to the high bar in proving cause, many employers may terminate an employee “without cause” even if there may have been cause to do so.
Employers are not required to provide a reason for a “without cause” termination, however many still do, which can be very confusing for the employee. Usually, in these situations, an employer will provide the employee with a “reason” for termination, however, the employee will still receive termination pay. In these situations, the employee has likely been terminated “without cause” even if a reason for termination was provided.
How Can A Lawyer Help?
As detailed above, it can sometimes be very confusing to tell whether you have been terminated with or without cause. Being terminated with cause can also have a significant impact on your ability to qualify for benefits such as Employment Insurance, as well as your future employability. A lawyer can help review your matter and determine whether your employer actually had “cause” to terminate you, or if you have a potential claim for wrongful dismissal.