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Most Important Employment Law Cases of 2016

  1. Paquette v. TeraGo Networks Inc.: Ontario Court of Appeal held that an explicit contractual requirement for “active employment” when incentive compensation (i.e. bonus, equity, etc.) is paid, without more, is not sufficient to deprive an employee of a claim for incentive compensation that she would have received during the notice period, as part of her wrongful dismissal damages.
  1. Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.: Supreme Court of Canada held that the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”) does not permit dismissals of non-union, non-managerial employees on a without cause basis, even where adequate notice is provided. Now, if a federally regulated employee claims unjust dismissal under the Code, an employer cannot rely on having provided reasonable notice as a defence, and a decision maker can award reinstatement and compensation for all losses stemming from the termination.
  1. Doe 464533 v N.D.: Ontario Superior Court recognized, for the first time, the tort of “public disclosure of private facts”. Accordingly, employers must now take thoughtful consideration of behavior that could impact the privacy of their employees.
  1. Oudin v Le Centre Francophone de Toronto: Ontario Superior Court held that it is NOT the law that if any potential interpretation of an employment contract can be posited that might in some hypothetical circumstance entail a potential violation of the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), however implausible the interpretation may be, then the only possible result is to strike out the entire section of the agreement.
  1. Singh et al. v. Montréal Gateways Terminals et al.:  Superior Court of Québec held that health and safety trumps human rights. The court found that the employer’s policy on forcing Sikh workers to wear a hard hat was prima facie discriminatory, but that infringement was justified because there was no safe alternative. (French)
  1. Keenan v. Canac Kitchens Ltd.: Ontario Court of Appeal held that 26 months was reasonable notice for a dependent contractor, confirming the theory that there is no 24-month common law cap on reasonable notice.
  1. Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113 v. Toronto Transit Commission: Arbitrator found that the employer failed to protect its employees from discrimination and harassment on … Twitter. Accordingly, the arbitrator held that an employer’s official Twitter account is “considered to constitute part of the workplace” in respect of the consideration of whether employment laws were broken. Employers should take heed to protect their employees from trolls as a result. (Decision not available online on CanLII)
  1. Gordon v Altus: Ontario Superior Court shockingly awarded employee $100,000 in punitive damages. The court awarded punitive damages as punishment for the employer’s “terrible conduct” in terminating the employee because he sought to arbitrate a dispute relating to his share purchase agreement with the employer. This appears to be an unreasonably high amount of punitive damages, and the decision is being appealed. Nevertheless, employers should shudder at this case and in the future consider the high cost of misconduct in termination.
  1. Ministry of Labour Workplace Violence Charges: Ontario’s new workplace violence health and safety laws were finally tested, and Kinark Child and Family Services and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (“CAMH”) were fined $125,000 and $80,000 after workplace violence incidents, respectively. (No decisions available on CanLII, but Ministry of Labour news bulletins can be found here:;
  2. Fernandes v. Peel Educational & Tutorial Services Limited (Mississauga Private School): Ontario Court of Appeal held that the test for just cause must also examine the employer’s circumstances, not only the employee’s. Here, the employee’s behavior could have lost the employer its license to conduct business, and the trial judge ignored that in finding that just cause was not present. The Court of Appeal’s reversal is thus a common-sense decision that disputes the myth set by the trial court that no conduct, no matter how serious, can meet the just cause standard.