If an employee is being wilfully disobedient, insolent, insubordinate, or simply engaging in misconduct, it is possible for them to be terminated (Scott v Domtar Sonoco Containers Inc, para 8). Terminating an employee on one of these grounds is referred to as summary dismissal.

 

        Summary dismissal allows an employer to terminate an employee without notice and without payment in lieu of notice. However, an employer can only rely on summary dismissal to terminate an employee if it can be justified. It is the employer’s responsibility to prove they have justification for summary dismissal (Scott, para 8). To rely on misconduct as justification for summary dismissal, the employer must also prove that the misconduct made it impossible to for the employment relationship to continue (McKinley v BC Tel, para 39).

 

        If there are a series of relatively minor transgressions committed by the employee, these can accumulate to just cause for summary dismissal (Scott, para 30). However, in order for the employer to rely on these minor transgressions as justification for summary dismissal, the employer has a heavy burden of proof. Specifically, the employer must be able to prove: (David J Doorey, The Law of Work, p 183–184).

 

  1. The employee was given clear an unequivocal warnings about their actions;
  2. The employee was given an opportunity to correct their behaviour;
  3. The employee failed to correct their behaviour when given the chance; and
  4. The cumulative transgressions of the employee prejudiced the employer’s business.

           Failure by the employer to give the employee warnings and an opportunity to correct their behaviour will prevent the employer from being able to justify the summary dismissal. The employer should warn the employee about all the behaviour that could result in termination, even if it seems obvious. For example, in Cain v Roluf’s Ltd, the employer failed to warn the employee that her pattern of showing up late to work and leaving work early without permission could result in termination (Cain, para 23). When the employer terminated the employee, the court found the employer could not justify the summary dismissal because they failed to warn the employee that her tardiness and absenteeism could lead to termination (Cain, para 33).

 

        In summary, a misbehaving employee can be terminated. The employer can terminate the employee via summary dismissal without notice and without pay in lieu of notice. However, the employer must be able to justify the termination. If the employer is relying on a series of minor transgressions committed by the employee as justification for summary dismissal, the employer must have given the employee clear and unequivocal warnings that their actions may result in termination and the employer must give the employee the opportunity to correct their behaviour. If the employer fails to do so and skips straight to termination, the employee will be able to bring a claim for wrongful dismissal.

 

If you have further questions or inquiries, please contact 519-578-4150 for more information.

 

Resources:

Cain v Roluf’s Ltd, [1998] OJ No 661.

 

David J Doorey, The Law of Work, 2nd ed (Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications Limited, 2020).

 

McKinley v BC Tel, 2001 SCC 38. < 2001 SCC 38 (CanLII) | McKinley v. BC Tel | CanLII >.

 

Scott v Domtar Sonoco Containers Inc, [1987] 20 CCEL 290.

 

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