Employees should be treated with dignity and respect. Accordingly, employers risk breaching an employment contract by condoning harassment in the workplace and creating a hostile work environment, which – in turn – may give rise to a constructive dismissal claim. Employers facing a constructive dismissal claim resulting from workplace harassment should assess whether the claim falls within the jurisdiction of workers' compensation legislation, rather than the civil courts.
The requirement for employees to mitigate their damages following termination is generally helpful for employers during wrongful dismissal litigation, but this may not be the case when it comes to fixed-term employees. Employers that wish to use fixed-term employment agreements should ensure that they have airtight early termination provisions in their contracts and consider specifically obliging employees to mitigate.
Since the Supreme Court decision in Machtinger v HOJ Industries Ltd, it has been well established that employers in common law provinces can contractually limit the amount of common law notice or pay in lieu to which an employee may be entitled on termination. However, the case law on drafting such clauses is ever evolving and the courts are wary of enforcing these provisions, except in the clearest cases.
Workplace violence is a serious concern for employees and employers alike. Employees expect safe workplaces and employers have a concomitant duty to ensure their safety. Therefore, it is critical for employers to understand how to minimise workplace violence and respond if it arises. Syncrude's handling of this situation in Belyea v Syncrude Canada Ltd is exemplary and offers key lessons on how to address workplace aggression.