sitting at computer after wrongful dismissal

Can you Claim Damages for Wrongful Dismissal in Ontario?

A wrongful dismissal from a job you love can be devastating. It’s a situation that can leave you feeling helpless, uncertain about your future, and questioning your rights. However, understanding what constitutes a wrongful dismissal in Ontario and being aware of your rights can help you get the justice you deserve.

You can hold an errant employer accountable for their actions and claim damages to cover your emotional distress and economic losses.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into what comprises a wrongful dismissal, your rights as an employee, and what you can do to right this wrong. We’ll also look at the damages you can pursue if you’re wrongfully dismissed from your job.

What Constitutes Wrongful Dismissal?

Under Ontario law, wrongful dismissal refers to the termination of an employee’s employment contract without reasonable notice or compensation in lieu of notice. It can also occur when an employer’s actions, such as constructive dismissal, fundamentally breach the employment agreement.

Factors that may contribute to wrongful dismissal include inadequate notice, unfair treatment, discriminatory practices, or failure to follow proper termination procedures.

Lawful termination may occur when an employer has just cause to terminate an employee’s contract. 

Understanding Your Employee Rights

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) is a provincial law that sets the employment standards and regulations employers must follow when hiring workers in Ontario, Canada. It outlines employers’ and employees’ rights and responsibilities to ensure fair and equitable treatment in the workplace.

The basic employee rights under the Employment Standards Act in Ontario Include:

  • Minimum wages: The ESA sets the minimum wages employers must pay most employees. Salaries vary depending on age, experience, and whether they serve alcohol at work. 
  • Hours of work: The ESA establishes rules of regular and overtime hours, rest periods, and eating periods. It mandates that employees exceeding the overtime threshold must be paid at least 1.5 times their regular pay for each extra hour worked.
  • Public holiday pay: Employees are entitled to public holiday pay for designated public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Canada Day, and Christmas Day. Payment is based on an employee’s regular wages and the number of days worked.
  • Vacation pay: The ESA establishes minimum vacation pay entitlements. It also stipulates that employees must receive vacation pay at least two weeks before their vacation starts or on their regular payday.
  • Termination notice or pay in lieu: When an employer terminates an employee without just cause, they must provide reasonable notice or pay in place of notice. The ESA sets out minimum notice periods based on the employee’s length of service. 

These rights represent the minimum standards and are binding on all employers. However, employees may have additional rights and entitlements based on employment contracts, collective agreements, or common law.

In cases of wrongful dismissal or unfair dismissal in Ontario, these rights provide a baseline for determining the amount of notice or compensation owed to the employee.

Consulting an employment lawyer specializing in employment matters can provide guidance if you believe you were wrongfully dismissed from your job. An employment lawyer can also help you pursue common law remedies, which often exceed the ESA minimum entitlements.

Types of Damages You Can Claim

You may claim various types of damages when pursuing a wrong dismissal case, including:

  • Lost wages: If you’re wrongfully dismissed, you can claim lost wages from your employer. You may consider several factors when calculating lost income due to wrongful dismissal. They include the reasonable notice period, past and future wages, and bonuses and benefits. The process of calculating lost wages can be complex because it may consider other factors that are specific to your case. Consulting an employment lawyer specializing in wrongful dismissal can help ensure an accurate and comprehensive calculation of lost wages.
  • Emotional distress: Since a wrongful dismissal may lead to significant mental suffering beyond the normal distress of losing a job, you may be able to claim damages for emotional distress. However, you’ll need to back up your claims with objective records. Courts require tangible proof to support a claim of emotional distress. Possible evidence includes medical records, psychiatric evaluations, or expert testimony from mental health professionals. You must adduce concrete proof to establish a direct causal link between the wrongful dismissal and the emotional distress suffered.
  • Punitive damages: Punitive damages are awarded in exceptional cases of wrongful dismissal. The damages are intended to go beyond compensating the employee for their losses and serve as a form of punishment to the employer for their willful, malicious, or highly egregious conduct. However, the availability and standards for awarding punitive damages vary depending on jurisdiction and specific legal framework.

Legal Framework: Employment Standard Act vs. Common Law

Employees may be awarded statutory severance pay or common law dismissal damages in case of termination.

Under the Employment Standards Act in Ontario, statutory pay provides a standardized minimum entitlement for eligible employees based solely on their length of service. The ESA specifies the formula for calculating severance pay and sets a minimum standard that employers must provide to eligible employees. An employee is entitled to statutory pay if they’re terminated without just cause and their length of service meets a set criteria.

Common law dismissal damages are determined through individualized assessments based on principles of common law. The damages are governed by case law and consider various factors beyond the length of service. These factors include age, length of service, salary, position, and circumstances surrounding their termination.

While statutory severance pay sets minimum standards, common law dismissal damages aim to provide compensation that reflects the employee’s unique circumstances. As a result, common law damages can result in higher compensation for certain employees but are subject to case-by-case legal interpretation.

Stand Up for Your Rights

Claiming damages for wrongful dismissal in Ontario can be a complex process since there are many nuances to consider. Seeking legal counsel can help you navigate these complexities, pursue your rights, and seek fair compensation following a wrongful dismissal.

For more than 35 years, Allan Rouben has helped employees in Ontario fight for their rights. A battle-hardened litigator, Allan can help you pursue justice in the courtroom or the boardroom. Schedule a free consultation today to learn about your legal options.