Wrongful Dismissal: When Employment is Terminated for Cause

by Lior Samfiru

Monday, November 2nd, 2015 at 5:52 pm

It is a sad but true reality that employment relationships do not always end on good terms. Employers frequently cite performance issues or some form of misconduct as a reason for dismissing an employee. This only adds to the stress and confusion faced by a recently dismissed. In my experience working with employees, the decision to terminate an employee for “just cause” is almost always premature or otherwise completely inappropriate. If you have been terminated for cause when no proper cause existed, you have been wrongfully dismissed.


So what is just cause dismissal? Just cause is when an employer is justified in ending the employment relationship without providing any severance to the individual. The dismissed employee may also not be to collect employment insurance benefits and will likely experience difficulty finding other employment. This is serious blow that can have a lasting effect for an individual. As a result, it is extremely difficult to terminate employment for cause. Typically only the most serious forms of misconduct such as theft or dishonesty would be considered just cause.

In dismissing the employee, the employer must not only prove that the misconduct existed but also that termination was the appropriate response. In most cases, termination of the employee is completely premature. For example, when an individual is terminated as a result of performance issues the employer has often not taken the necessary steps to document the poor performance or failed to provide the adequate training to correct the issues. It is also common that an employer has not properly investigated an workplace incident or brought forward the allegation to the individual for their side of the story. In either case, the employer would not be able to terminate the employment relationship without paying the appropriate severance and leaving the individuals dignity intact.


Dismissal of an employee is too often an emotional process where an employer acts on isolated incidents or fails to fully appreciate the employees side of the story. When an individual is dismissed with cause they absolutely deserve full disclosure of the allegations made against them and fair treatment throughout the whole process – from the investigation stage up to the time of dismissal. In my experience, this is typically not what happens. In most cases, individuals are terminated for minor or one-off incidents and do not receive and opportunity to fully answer to the reasons for their termination. This leaves the individual without severance and all the other protections provided to employees who lose their jobs. That is a wrongful dismissal.

In any situation where an employee is dismissed with cause I would encourage them to give me a call right away and have the situation surrounding their termination fully assessed. The consequences are simply too dire for the individual.


An employer would have to establish:

  • That the employee was guilty of serious misconduct
  • That the employee was given all opportunities to improve
  • That there was prior warnings and other discipline
  • That there was absolutely no choice but to let the employee go

If the employer cannot establish all of the above conditions, but still lets the employee go, that employee is owed full severance. Remember, every employee is owed severance. Yes, even if you work for a small company and even if you only worked for a short period of time. Use the Severance Calculator to see how much you are owed (www.SeverancePayCalculator.com) and do not hesitate to call or email me.

Being terminated for cause is often illegal. You should never hesitate to pursue what you are legally owed.

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