In Richards v. Rainy River Cattlemen’s Assn. the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision that a dependent contractor may be terminated without any entitlement to notice if the actions engaged in by the dependent contractor are tantamount to a repudiation of the contract.
Mr. Russel Richards worked for Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association as the Sales Barn Manager, and was responsible for organizing and conducting the Association’s cattle auctions.
Throughout 2006 and 2007, Mr. Richards refused to accept changes instituted by the Association regarding how the auctions would be managed, informed the Association’s Board that he would not deal with the re-elected President, Mr. Ken McKinnon, and conducted himself in a “hostile and aggressive manner” at the Association’s Board meetings by using “extremely derogatory descriptors” for the President and the Secretary Treasurer and accusing them both of “cooking the books”.
The above conduct resulted in the Association terminating Mr. Richards from his position with the Association on May 21, 2007 without any payment. In response, Mr. Richards initiated legal proceedings against the Association for breach of contract.
Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s Decision
After reviewing the above conduct committed by Mr. Richards, the Court concluded that Mr. Richards’ refusal to accept the changes instituted by the Association regarding how the auctions would be managed “were insufficient to justify [Mr. Richards’] termination.” However, the Court found that Mr. Richards’ refusal to work with the Association’s President, and his actions at the Association’s Board meetings “amounted to repudiation of his contract”, resulting in Mr. Richards being disentitled to any claim for damages for breach of contract. Mr. Richards appealed the Court’s decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Ontario Court of Appeal’s Decision
The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s decision stating the following:
“…the conduct that the trial judge found justified the appellant’s termination was of a different class. It was an outright refusal to work with the President of this small organization. Working with the President was an essential part of the job. Another essential part of the job was not to make unsupported allegations about the President and the Secretary-Treasurer stealing and manipulating the books.”
Points of Interest
The above decision demonstrates that a worker’s misconduct may result in the worker repudiating the working relationship, thereby bringing the working relationship to an end without any damages being owed to the worker. Of course, not all acts of misconduct will result in the repudiation of the working relationship. Rather, it appears from the case referred to above, that the misconduct must be “well beyond any reasonable boundaries” and interfere with essential parts of the worker’s duties.
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