Can My Employer Terminate Me For Any Reason?

Yes if the reasons are not illegal, you are not in a union, and you are provincially regulated by the Ontario Employment Standards Act.

Termination Without Cause Possible if Severance is Paid

For most employees, employers can terminate (or layoff) an employee without cause as long as they provide enough severance pay. See this post on how to calculate severance.

The reason for termination could be anything: business reasons, re-organisation, performance, suitability, or no reason at all. Further, there is no obligation for an employer to warn an employee that an employee will be terminated. An employee could be the best employee in the business but still be terminated with severance. There is nothing wrong (legally) with that.

Provided the reasons for termination are not “illegal,” an employer can simply just provide them with enough money.

The following are situations where a termination will be “illegal:”

Discriminatory Termination

An employer cannot terminate an employee if it is discriminatory, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code. If an employer takes into account a person’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability into account when they dismiss someone, this is discrimination. The discrimination does not have to be intentional. It does not have to be the only reason for termination. If discrimination is proven at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, an employee can be awarded money for the discrimination, loss of wages, and their job back.

Punishment for Asserting Employee’s Rights

If an employer retaliates or punishes an employee who tries to assert their rights under the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA), this is called a reprisal. Reprisals are not allowed in the ESA, and an employee can be awarded compensation or their job back.

Similarly, if an employer terminates an employee because they made a harassment complaint, this is a reprisal contrary to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Finally, an employee who is trying to form a union in the workplace is also protected. If an employer terminates this employee for participating in the union organizing process, the employer would have committed an unfair labour practice.

Unionized Employees Protected

Most collective agreements between a union and employer provide that an employer can only terminate an employee for cause. The employer cannot simply terminate an employee by providing them with sufficient severance

Federally Regulated Employees Protected

The Canada Labour Code sets out rights for federally-regulated employees who work for federally regulated employers. Even though an employee may work in Ontario, this does not mean they are governed by the Ontario ESA. Federally regulated employers include banks (like TD, CIBC, RBC, Scotia Bank, BMO), telecommunications (like Rogers, Bell, Freedom, Telus), transportation, and airlines.

For employees under the Canada Labour Code, they have similar job protections as those in a union. Employers can only terminate an employee for cause. They cannot simply provide them with severance pay. If an employer terminates an employee without cause, the employee may have an Unjust Dismissal.