woman stressed at computer from wrongful dismissal

Understanding Wrongful Dismissal in Ontario

Facing wrongful dismissal in Ontario can be a stressful and confusing experience.

Understanding the type of wrongful termination and employment law is key. This guide helps you grasp your rights as an employee, the legal framework surrounding termination, and the steps you can take to seek justice.

What Is Wrongful Dismissal?

In Ontario, wrongful dismissal occurs when an employer terminates an employee’s employment without providing the proper notice or severance pay as stipulated by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) or common law principles. This can happen through direct termination or constructive dismissal, where the employer creates an unbearable work environment, forcing the employee to resign.

An employment contract may detail the common law principles if an employer terminates an employee. Even if not, common law principles still apply, leading to claims of wrongful dismissal if the termination was unfair or without cause.

The Grounds for Dismissal

There are legitimate reasons for which an employer can terminate an employee’s employment, known as dismissal for cause. These can include poor performance or misconduct. However, if the termination is not based on a valid reason, it may be considered wrongful dismissal.

Common Examples of Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal can manifest in various ways, including:

Termination Without Cause

This occurs when the employer terminates the employee’s employment without a valid reason, such as poor performance or misconduct.

Here are some examples:

  • An employee with a strong performance history is unexpectedly fired without any explanation or evidence of misconduct.
  • An employer terminates an employee due to personal disagreements unrelated to job performance.
  • An employee is let go due to changes in the company’s financial situation, but other employees with similar performance are kept on.

Not Providing a Notice Period

Employees are entitled to a minimum notice period or pay in lieu of notice, depending on the length of their employment and their position.

Here are some examples:

  • A long-term employee is given only one week’s notice before being terminated, even though they are entitled to several weeks or months of notice based on their employment length.
  • The employer fails to provide any notice or pay in lieu of notice, leaving the employee financially unprepared for their termination.
  • An employee is forced to work through their notice period without being assigned any meaningful tasks, effectively serving as a form of punishment.

Constructive Dismissal

This occurs when the employer makes significant changes to the employee’s work environment or responsibilities, making it impossible for them to continue working.

Here are some examples:

  • An employer significantly reduces an employee’s salary or benefits without any justification.
  • The employer assigns the employee unreasonable workloads or impossible deadlines, creating an unworkable situation.
  • An employer subjects the employee to bullying, harassment, or discrimination, making the work environment hostile and intolerable.

Additional Examples

  • Retaliatory dismissal: An employee reports illegal activity or unethical practices, leading to wrongful dismissal.
  • Discrimination: An employee is terminated based on their age, race, gender, religion, disability, or other discriminatory factors.
  • Breach of contract: The employer violates the terms of the employee’s contract, such as by failing to pay them overtime or providing promised benefits.

If you are unsure whether your termination was lawful, it is crucial to consult with an employment lawyer who can assess your specific circumstances.

How Much Statutory Notice Are Employees Entitled to in Ontario?

The minimum notice period an employee is entitled to depends on their length of service and position. The ESA provides a table with specific notice periods based on these factors.

Recognizing Wrongful Dismissal

Several signs can indicate that your termination may be wrongful, including:

  • You were terminated without cause or prior warning.
  • The employer provided insufficient notice or no notice at all.
  • You were subjected to unfair treatment or harassment in the workplace.
  • The employer offered you a smaller severance package than you are entitled to.

Consequences of Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful discharge can have significant consequences for both the employer and the employee. The employer may face legal repercussions, including fines and damages. The employee may experience financial hardship, emotional distress, and difficulty finding new employment.

Preventing Wrongful Dismissal Claims

Employers can take steps to avoid wrongful dismissal claims by:

  • Having clear and well-drafted employment contracts that outline termination procedures
  • Providing proper training and support to managers on employment law and fair termination practices
  • Implementing a fair and transparent disciplinary process
  • Communicating openly and honestly with employees about performance concerns

Taking Action After Wrongful Dismissal

If you believe you have been wrongfully dismissed, it is crucial to take immediate action:

  • Consult an employment lawyer like Allan Rouben to discuss your options and assess the strength of your case.
  • Collect any documents or recordings related to your employment and termination.


How are wrongful dismissal and unjust dismissal different?

Wrongful dismissal focuses on legal aspects related to notice and severance pay, while unjust dismissal considers fairness and ethical treatment beyond legal requirements.

What’s constructive dismissal?

It occurs when an employer makes unbearable changes to your work environment, forcing you to resign. This can include demotions, unreasonable workloads, or intolerable harassment.

How can one differentiate between being fired for cause and without cause?

For cause requires a valid reason supported by evidence and a fair termination process. Without cause lacks a legitimate reason, evidence, or fair procedure.

What are the first steps to take if you’ve been wrongfully dismissed?

Document everything, seek legal advice, file a complaint if applicable, consider mediation, and gather evidence.

Contact Allan Rouben Today

If you are seeking an experienced and compassionate lawyer to represent your case of wrongful dismissal, contact Allan Rouben today. He has a proven track record of success in helping employees receive the compensation they deserve. Call (416) 360-5444 or contact him online to schedule a free consultation.