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Notice periods for short-term employees who are terminated.

Short-term employees who are terminated from their jobs often believe they won't get a long notice period or significant severance pay because they haven't worked at the company for a long time. Absent an enforceable termination clause in their employment contract, this is often not true.

In a case called Love v Acuity Investment Management Inc. (2011 ONCA 130), the Ontario Court of Appeal confirms that a short-term employee is not limited to a short reasonable notice period.

In that case, Paul Love worked as a Senior Vice President for Acuity Investment Management Inc., for just over two and a half years when he was terminated without cause. He was one of only two senior vice presidents and reported directly to the CEO. At the time of his dismissal, he was 50 years old. He was successful at trial and awarded five months' reasonable notice. Believing this amount of notice to be inadequate, Mr. Love appealed the decision. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld Mr. Love's appeal, finding that he was entitled to nine months' reasonable notice.

The Appeal court stated that we should be careful to put too much emphasis on length of service. The Court said that we must also consider seniority, the difficulty of finding similar employment, and compensation level. Because Mr. Love received company shares, profit distribution, reported directly to the CEO, and was paid a significant annual salary of $633,548.00 a year, he was entitled to nine months' of reasonable notice. The Court found that for someone of his salary level and compensation package, it would be difficult for him to find a similar job elsewhere.

Love v. Acuity reminds us that just because an employee has not worked for long does not necessarily mean they will not receive a long notice period. All factors relevant to determining how long it will take the employee to find a comparable job needs to be considered, and length of service is only one factor.

To reach the authors of this blog, Jean-Francois Lalonde and Marie Kwan, call 613.232.5773.

Jean-Francois Lalonde is an Ottawa, Ontario employment lawyer and wrongful dismissal lawyer practicing with Vice & Hunter LLP. He has extensive experience practicing in the areas of employment law and is a part-time professor at La Cité Collégiale teaching Employment Law for Paralegals.

Marie Kwan is an articling student with Vice & Hunter LLP. She has experience assisting in employment law matters and competed in a labour law moot while in law school.

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