Employment Law

Severance denied to GoodLife Fitness employees due to refusal to respond to email


Countless GoodLife Fitness instructors lost their employment at the start of March 2022, seemingly as a result of the pandemic. Instructors were sent an email survey and due to a refusal to respond, were considered to have voluntarily resigned as opposed to being terminated. Many employees have since questioned this manner of termination and what they are owed.

Jon Pinkus, a Toronto employment lawyer and Partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP spoke to CTV News on the ongoing terminations and employees entitlements.

“That’s not what we call a voluntary resignation,” says Pinkus. “Whenever a court is looking at a question as to whether a resignation is genuine, they have to show that the resignation is clear and unequivocal, that the employer accepted that resignation, […] and that there’s basically been an agreement that the employment was going to end. And you just don’t have any of that here. You don’t have any intention being expressed by the employees.”

Pinkus goes on to explain that GoodLife would have to claim that their employees abandoned their employment and reiterates that terminated employees are owed severance. “When employees are terminated, depending on their position and the years they worked for the company, they can be entitled to varying levels of severance pay, anywhere from 6-24 months of pay,” says Pinkus.

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Pinkus states that employees who have been let go are strongly advised to seek legal advice and that the email survey does not hold much weight.

“There’s no way to prove that many of these employees saw the emails,” Pinkus says. “All these employees have to say is that ‘I was intending to respond,’ or, ‘I didn’t receive [the emails],’ […] and I think that GoodLife is gonna have a tremendously difficult time trying to show that they reasonably inferred from this that these employees abandoned their employment.”

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Pinkus also explains that there is no clear determination of time in which employers have to contact an employee before consideration of job abandonment.

“If we’re just talking about lack of response, what matters is the context? Did the employer have a basis to believe that the employee was intending not to work there anymore?” Pinkus states.

Ultimately Pinkus believes there is a bad faith element to these terminations. “These employees have been laid off and were already in a potentially vulnerable state if they had been just waiting to come back.”

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