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Updating and Amending Employment Contracts

After you have worked for a company for a period of time, your employer may request to update or amend your employment contract for any number of reasons. These reasons typically include an update to reflect a promotion or change in job position, a demotion, a restructuring of the organization, change in the amount of compensation earned (i.e., from salary to commission or vice versa), a change in the location of where job duties are to be carried out (i.e., at home or remote, or a new company office) and any other changes.

In order for an updated or amended employment contract to be considered enforceable by the Courts in Ontario, it must be accompanied by fresh consideration. In other words, and as noted in the BC Court in the case of Krieser v. Active Chemicals Ltd, 2005 BCSC 1370, an updated employment contract will only be enforced if there is a further benefit to both parties.

One of the common and relevant terms that employers attempt to include in updated employment contracts are restrictive termination clauses. We have written about the impact that a restrictive termination clause can have on your severance entitlements in the event of a without cause termination from employment here. A restrictive termination clause, if properly drafted, and compliant with the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) in Ontario, will limit a terminated employees severance entitlements to the minimum amounts prescribed by the employment standards legislation in the province.

The minimum termination entitlements of an employee terminated without cause in Ontario is equivalent to one-week of termination pay per year worked up to a maximum of 8 weeks pay; and one-week of severance pay per year worked up to a maximum of 26 weeks, in the event a certain eligibility test for severance is satisfied, as further described here. These represent an employees minimum entitlements, which are applicable in the event a restrictive termination clause is included in an employment contract.

Absent such a termination clause, terminated employees are entitled to “reasonable notice” of termination, further described here. Severance packages calculated on the basis of reasonable notice are substantially higher than those that are merely based on the ESA minimums. These packages can amount to awards of 1 month of more per year of service, rather than the one week per year enumerated in the ESA. Accordingly, it can amount to a huge financial gain for the employee to receive reasonable notice on termination rather than the statutory minimum. Accordingly, an updated employment contract with the inclusion of a restrictive termination clause can be of immense benefit to the employer and detrimental to the employee. As such, Courts will not enforce such updates absent fresh consideration (or benefit) flowing between both parties.

Reasonable notice is calculated based on a host of factors recognized by Ontario Courts over the years, including but not limited to the following:

-Age of the employee (more advanced age employees are entitled to larger severance packages, all else equal);
-Years of service (the longer duration of employment will justify a larger severance award);
-Specialization and availability of comparable employment (as severance packages are designed to bridge the gap during a period of unemployment, employees with highly specialized jobs may find it more challenging to find comparable employment after a termination);
-Income level;
-Other unique circumstances.

Clearly there is a large benefit to receiving reasonable notice on termination. As such, if an employer attempts to update your employment contract, it is best to contact a qualified employment lawyer for a review.

Valuations in Expropriation

What is Expropriation?

Expropriation occurs when an authorized public authority takes private property without consent of the owner. In Canada, public authorities have the right to take private property, as long as the appropriate government body approves the acquisition.

Given the imbalance of power between the landowner and the government, numerous safeguards are in place to protect the property owner in the expropriation process. One of these safeguards ensures the property owner is entitled to “be made whole” for any property taken. This may include:

  • The fair market value of the expropriated property at the date of expropriation;
  • Losses attributable to the adjoining land;
  • Compensation for reasonable legal or accounting fees associated with the expropriation;
  • Relocation costs for a business, or if a business cannot be relocated, the value of the goodwill of the business;
  • Reasonable business losses attributable to downtime; and/or
  • Interest for unpaid parts of the claim at a prescribed rate

As a practical matter, Chartered Business Valuators (“CBV”) and other professionals are usually retained to assess the quantum of damages suffered by the expropriated business owner.

Why do I need a Valuation?

Generally, a CBV becomes involved in expropriation matters when the taking of real property adversely affects a business. Examples include:

  • Business Closure: When a business’s property is taken and the business is unable to relocate and must close;
  • Business Relocation: When a business’s property is taken and the business is forced to relocate;
  • Business Disruption: When part of the business’s property is taken and the reduced utility of the remaining property results in extra costs for the business; or
  • Construction Loss: in an injurious affection scenario, where no property is taken, but a business is impacted by construction-related activities that occur in close proximity to its property.

In general, these losses exist in one of two categories: past losses and future losses.

Past losses occur between the date of the expropriation and the date of the valuation. Past losses are calculated by assuming that, had the expropriation not occurred, the business would have continued as normal. The CBV will use the historical profitability of the business as the basis of the quantification, adjusted for any industry trends, market trends, and other factors deemed appropriate.

Future losses occur after the date of the valuation. Unlike past losses, future losses are, by their very nature, speculative and involve many assumptions. If the business is unable to continue operating, the CBV may quantify the businesses goodwill [hyperlink to goodwill blog] as the future loss. If the business is able to relocate and continue operations, the CBV may need to estimate how profitable the business will be at the new location, and estimate how far in the future the losses attributable to the expropriation will continue.

Registering Plans of Expropriation

When an expropriation is approved by an “approving authority” (as defined by the Expropriations Act in Ontario), the expropriating authority will register a plan of expropriation on the title to the expropriated lands.

Once the plan of expropriation has been registered, title, or ownership of that portion of the expropriated land “vests” in the expropriating authority (but this does not give the expropriating authority the right of possession).

After the plan of expropriation has been registered on title, the expropriating authority will serve all registered owners with: (i) a Notice of Expropriation, which provides notice that the lands have been expropriated; (ii) a Notice of Possession, indicating the date on which the expropriating authority requires possession of the lands; and (iii) a Notice of Election, which permits the owner to select one of three dates upon which compensation for the lands expropriated will be based.

After service of the notice of expropriation, the expropriating authority may enter on the expropriated lands (with the owner’s consent, or upon an order issued by the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal) in order to view the lands for the purpose of preparing an appraisal report, which is intended to support of Offer of Compensation for the expropriated lands in accordance with Section 25 of the Expropriations Act.

Once an appraisal report has been prepared, the expropriating authority will provide a copy of the report to each registered owner, along with an offer of compensation for the owner’s interest in the lands expropriated. Owners then have two options: (1) accept the offer in full settlement of all claims under the Expropriations Act; or (2) accept the offer while preserving the right to claim additional compensation from the expropriating authority. Where the second option is selected, owners can assert their claim for additional compensation through formal or informal negotiation, or through arbitration at the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board). Often, negotiation and arbitration proceedings are pursued simultaneously.

Please note that the above-referenced expropriation procedures are only applicable to expropriations in Ontario – and expropriation legislation and the associated processes and procedures vary from province to province.

Termination for Cause – High Threshold

We are often contacted by employees that have been terminated from their employment for cause.  Employers give any number of reasons to form the basis for a just cause dismissal; however, a Court will only uphold a decision to terminate an employer for just cause in the most extreme situations.

In many cases, where an employees performance is below average, if they have been subjected to limited discipline in the past, or if an employer policy indicates that they will be terminated for cause if you engage in “X, Y, or Z” behavior, the employer attempts to rely on these factors to justify a dismissal for cause.  Courts will assess the facts of each particular case and are not overly concerned with the specific employer policy.  Court precedent and its application to the particular case at bar determine whether there is just cause for termination; not the employer’s arbitrary policy.

It is critical that you consult an employment lawyer following a termination for cause to ensure your right are protected. At Goldstein Law, we offer a free consultation to assess your severance package and termination letter to determine whether the employer has provided for your full legal rights on the termination of employment.  Please contact us today for an employment law consultation.

Initial Steps in the Expropriation Process

Pre-Expropriation Procedures

Prior to commencing the expropriation process, the authorities may approach the owner directly in an attempt to negotiate a settlement without initiating potentially time-consuming expropriation proceedings. In which case, the authorities will approach the property owner with an appraisal report in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. If the property owner and authorities cannot reach an amicable resolution, the next step is for the expropriating authority to publish a notice of application for approval to expropriate lands.

Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Lands

Upon commencing an application for approval to expropriate lands to an approving authority (i.e., local municipal council), the town or region must publish the Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Lands in a public domain (i.e., a newspaper with general circulation in the relevant region where the expropriation will be undertaken).

Any owner which is given notice of the expropriation has the right to request a Hearing of Necessity with an inquiry officer to conduct an assessment into whether the expropriation is fair and necessary in light of the objectives of the public work.  The request for a Hearing of Necessity must be made to the authorities directly in writing within 30 days of receipt of the notice of approval to expropriate lands.

If no Hearing of Necessity is requested, the local approving authority will determine if the expropriation can proceed.  If approval fo the application is granted by the “approving authority” (as defined by the Expropriations Act), the authorities have 90 days to register a Plan of Expropriation on the title to the lands it requires. Once the Plan of Expropriation is registered on title, ownership vests in the authorities (although possession of the lands will often remain with the property owner).  There are a number of technical additional steps that occur following the registration of the expropriation plan, which steps are governed by the provisions of the Expropriations Act in Ontario.

Given the breadth of infrastructure upgrading and improvements across the Province of Ontario, various regions are initiating the expropriation process; as such, we have provided examples of the published notices of approval to expropriate lands from various authorities, as listed below:

Region of Waterloo

Town of Oakville

Town of Collingwood

City of Kingston

Dealing with a Pending Expropriation

If you are a property or business owner that has been served a notice of application for approval to expropriate lands, an experience expropriation lawyer will help you navigate the technical complexities and timelines as prescribed by the Expropriations Act.  For more information on expropriations, visit our main page here or give us a call at 647-838-6740.

Registered Property Owners in Expropriations

Municipalities in Ontario are engaging in the expropriation process to involuntarily purchase private property for various infrastructure works.  For example, in the City of Toronto, the authorities have acquired an interest in private property in order to accommodate the upgrading and enhanced of Donlands Subway Station.  See a copy of the summary of the project and of the expropriated property interests here.  This project is an important insofar as it enhances accessibility requirements at this subway station and complies with the legislative changes as implemented by the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

The City of Toronto posts a partial list of expropriated properties here.  In addition, prior to expropriation, the authorities are required to publish a notice of the application of intention to expropriate land once a week for three weeks in a local newspaper where the lands are situated (section 6(1) of the Expropriations Act).  In addition, the notice of the application of intention to expropriate is served on the registered owner(s) of the property.

Registered Owner is defined by the Expropriations Act as follows:

An owner of land whose interest in the land is defined and whose name is specified in an instrument in the proper land registry or sheriff’s office, and includes a person shown as a tenant of land on the last revised assessment roll; (“propriétaire enregistré”)

The above-referenced definition of the registered owner is rather broad and encompasses anyone with an interest in the property.  Tenants in common, individuals with small and limited ownership interests, mortgagees, other security-interest holders, lien-holders, those with spousal interests, and otherwise, are all entitled to notice of the expropriation and to have their rights preserved and protected in the expropriation process.  Authorities will generally require a Full and Final Release from all registered owners of the property in order to effectuate a payout on account of expropriation. As such, it can often require extensive time and coordination amongst the registered owners of the property if their interests are not all aligned.

Authorities typically prefer an amicable resolution with property owners related to expropriation claims, especially with respect to smaller, partial takings and temporary easement. However, given construction timelines and public budgets, authorities typically commence the expropriation process in parallel with attempts at an amicable resolution.  If a negotiated settlement with the expropriated property owner is not attainable, the more formal timelines and procedures of the Expropriations Act will be employed by the authorities in order to take possession of the lands and commence construction works.

 

Notice of Application for Approval to Exproriate Land

As has been discussed, expropriation is a taking of land without consent of the owner by an expropriating authority. An understanding of the expropriation process is essential for lawyers and appraisers to properly consult property owners and business owners that are subject to land acquisition by governmental authorities.

Time Requirements in Expropriations in Ontario 

The first step in the formal expropriation process is for the authority to serve a Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Land on the registered owner of the property.  A registered owner is an owner whose interest in land is registered or specified in an instrument in the Land Registry Office.  The authority is required to publish the Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Land for three consecutive weeks in a local newspaper where the lands are situated.

Once served with the document, the owner has 30 days to request a hearing of necessity, where the authority must demonstrate that the expropriation is fair, sound and reasonably necessary. Often, the hearing has reduced the scope of an acquisition from a fee simple taking to easement takings or to amend construction plans to minimize the impacts on the property.

Once the expropriation plan is approved, the authority must register the Plan of Expropriation within 3 months, at which time legal title to the expropriated lands vests with the expropriating authority. An owner can remain in possession of the land following registration of the expropriation plan, the owner is no longer the legal owner of the lands specified in the plan.

Other Time Requirements

After registering the Plan of Expropriation, the authority has 30 days to serve Notices of Expropriation and Election. The Notice of Expropriation notifies the owner that an expropriation has occurred and the legal title has vested with the authority. The Notice of Election provides the owner with a valuation date to select for the purposes of determining compensation. The valuation dates are either:

a. the date the notice of hearing for an inquiry was served;

b. the date of the registration of the Expropriation Plan; or

c. The date on which the owner was served the Notice of Expropriation.

In addition, the authorities will serve a Notice of Possession, indicating that the authorities will take possession of the lands at least 3 months after the date of service, before which, an offer of compensation pursuant to Section 25 of the Expropriations Act must be served on the property owner.

For more information about timelines and provisions of the Expropriations Act, it is imperative to consult with a lawyer and land appraiser early in the process in order to document the state of the property prior to the expropriation for comparison purposes in order to maximize the value of the property on the valuation date.

Employment Considerations in the Sale of a Business

The liabilities of vendor and purchaser for employee entitlements upon termination can become a major issue in negotiating the sale of a business.

Section 64 governs statutory severance pay, which is payable only to an employee severed without cause, as defined, who has five or more years’ service and is either employed by an employer which has a payroll of $2.5 million or more or where there is a permanent discontinuance of all or part of the employer’s business at an establishment which results in 50 or more employees having their employment terminated within a six month period. Statutory severance pay is equal to one-week per completed and partial year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks.

Share Purchase Agreement

There is no termination of employment upon the sale of shares of a company.

Asset Purchase Agreement

Where a purchaser expressly recognizes past service in its new employment contract with the employee, no issue arises. An employer may make the choice to recognize past service in consideration for the valuable skills and experience it is receiving with a long-service employee. In the case of such an explicit recognition by the purchaser, the vendor would normally have no further liability at common law.

A purchaser can avoid liability for the employees’ prior service by requiring the vendor to provide common law reasonable notice of termination or pay in lieu thereof before the purchaser hires the employees.  Therefore, a purchaser wishing to try to insulate itself from employee termination liabilities should include a provision in the purchase and sale agreement requiring the vendor to provide reasonable notice of termination at common law, as well as require the vendor to indemnify it for any future termination payments for those employees, or at least for that portion of future termination payments attributable to the employees’ pre-sale service. Of course, if the purchaser declines to offer employment to the employees of the vendor, the vendor remains liable to the employees for common law reasonable notice.

Negotiating Business Purchase and Sale

As legal counsel for a purchaser, it is important to ensure that the vendor is contractually obliged to disclose as much information as possible about the employment aspects of the business and the age, tenure, compensation terms and character of employment of the employees. Potential common law and statutory employment liabilities must be considered in full and financially accounted for, through payment and/or indemnities, in any purchase and sale negotiation by both parties.