The recent British Columbia Supreme Court decision in DeGagne v. Williams Lake (City) reminds us that an Employer’s obligation to provide notice of termination can begin prior to an Employee beginning to perform their employment duties.
After an interview with the City and the completion of reference checks, Mr. DeGagne was offered the position of CAO with the City and signed a Letter Agreement which provided for the termination of Mr. DeGagne’s employment during the 6 month probationary period on 1 month’s notice.
Prior to beginning his probationary period, and ultimately the performance of his employment duties for the City, the City decided to terminate Mr. DeGagne’s employment without cause as a result of the content of an anonymous letter that was received about Mr. DeGagne and an email which Mr. DeGagne sent to the City’s Human Resources Manager. The City attempted to rely on the terms of the Letter Agreement with respect to Mr. DeGagne’s probationary period and provided Mr. DeGagne with 1 month’s notice. Mr. DeGagne initiated legal proceedings against the City for, among other things, the amount of notice that he was entitled to as a result of his termination without cause.
The Court determined that the Letter Agreement was a binding contract between Mr. DeGagne and the City; however, given that Mr. DeGagne had not yet started to perform his employment duties, he was not yet in his probationary period, thereby preventing the City from being able to rely on the termination clause of 1 month. Accordingly, the Court awarded Mr. DeGagne 6 month’s notice as a result of Mr. DeGagne’s age and prior years of experience as a local government administrator.
Lesson for Employers
It is often thought that an employee is only entitled to notice upon termination if they have actually begun to perform their employment duties. However, the above decision demonstrates otherwise, therefore being of great importance and interest for Employers. As a result, Employers should ensure that they receive the assistance of an experienced Employment Lawyer to ensure that any exposure to notice in such a situation is limited.
Lessons for Employees
Similarly, Employees should be aware of the above decision as they may be entitled to notice when they otherwise may be under the impression that no notice is owed or that a termination clause restricts the amount of notice that they are entitled to receive. Accordingly, when being terminated, an Employee should ensure that they have their termination package reviewed by Employment Law counsel to ensure that they are being provided with their full entitlements.
Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can help. Contact us to see how.
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