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What is just cause termination?

We often hear the term “just cause termination” but people who haven’t experienced it often don’t know what it means.

Just cause termination means you have been let go because of some type of misconduct on your part and your employer had just cause to fire you. Usually the employer will give the employee warnings unless the behaviour is so serious that it requires immediate dismissal.

What makes up a just cause termination?

  • Breach of trust and/or the duty of fidelity;
  • Dishonesty;
    • this can include things like theft, lying about your work hours;
  • Insolence and insubordination;
  • Conflict of interest;
  • Disobedience;
  • Constantly being late and/or absent from work;
  • Sexual harassment;
  • Workplace harassment, bullying and/or violence;
  • Serious incompetence;
  • Habitual neglect of duty;
  • Intoxication at the workplace; and
  • Fraudulent misrepresentation as to qualifications/credentials.

What are the consequences of a just cause dismissal?

In most jurisdictions in Canada, if your employer terminates you with just cause, they do not have to give you notice or severance pay. Often the employer doesn’t even have to provide minimal notice before dismissing you.

Furthermore, you likely won’t be provided with a referral or at least one that would be beneficial to you to find future employment.

What if I don’t believe my employer had just cause to terminate me?

If you disagree that the employer fired you for just cause then you should see a lawyer, because you may or may not have a wrongful termination claim.

What does the employer have to prove?

The employer has to prove in court that he or she fired you for just cause and it’s a high threshold to prove that the firing was for just cause, meaning it’s on the employer to prove that there was sufficient bad behaviour on your part to justify your firing.

The court will look at the number of factors including: the employee’s behaviour, the employee’s work record, and whether the employee was warned.

If the employee was insubordinate one time only and that insubordination had no serious consequences and the employee had an otherwise good and clean work record then just cause will likely not be justified.

Whereas if you were dismissed because you used physical violence against another employee at work, and that employee suffered injuries then chances are good that your dismissal can be justified in court.

However, it must be kept in mind that wrongful dismissal and just cause cases are case specific, meaning every case is evaluated on its own merits and specific facts. It’s a very good idea to run your case by an employment lawyer who can advise on whether your case has merit.

What if I was fired for just cause for substance abuse issues?

Employers have to be careful to fire employees for this reason, because many provinces and territories classify drug and alcohol addiction as a disability under human rights law. The employee has a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities.

If you have been fired and the reason given was “just cause”, and you believe you were wrongfully terminated consult an employment lawyer.

Read more:

Termination under the BC Employments Standards Act

Just Cause Employment Standards Manitoba