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Just Cause:
Good reasons for firing someone

Employers often claim they had "just cause" for terminating someone's employment. If you can prove that you had a legally sufficient reason to fire an employee, you will not have to give the notice set out in the Employment Standards Act, reasonable notice of termination , or severance pay in lieu of notice.

If, on previous occasions, you've warned an employee to correct her behaviour, and she continues her misconduct, she can be fired on the spot and asked to leave.

In order to fire an employee without giving him notice or severance pay, you must prove real incompetence or serious misconduct, with objective evidence of particular incidents. Concerns over future misconduct or dissatisfaction with job performance are not enough. It also doesn't matter if you dislike him. If the employee can provide a reasonable excuse for the misconduct, you do not have just cause for dismissing him.

Generally, misconduct that is inconsistent with an employee's duties and an employer's interest will suffice. However, each case is different. The seriousness of the misconduct must outweigh the employee's status and contribution to the company. For example, more serious misconduct must be alleged to dismiss a high-level, senior employee.

These are some but not all of the reasons which courts have accepted as just cause:

  • sexual harassment
  • breach of duty or fidelity
  • conflict of interest
  • misrepresenting qualifications
  • wilful disobedience
  • theft
  • fraud and dishonesty
  • absenteeism or lateness
  • intoxication
  • breach of rules or company policies

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This page last updated: September 20, 1999
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