Recently, we have been exposed in the press to large organizations reducing their workforce by substantial numbers. Specific rules have been prescribed to govern the mass termination of employees by workforces in Ontario. A mass termination is one defined as the termination of 50 or more employees in a four-week period.
In addition to serving a specific notice to the Director of Employment Standards in Ontario, the amount of notice that an employee is entitled to receive in a mass termination scenario is not based on their length of service but instead, is prescribed by the following rules:
- Eight weeks’ notice if the employment of 50 to 199 employees is to be terminated
- 12 weeks’ notice if the employment of 200 to 499 employees is to be terminated
- 16 weeks’ notice if the employment of 500 or more employees is to be terminated.
There are a number of exceptions to the notice of termination rules governing mass terminations, including but not to limited employees that have been terminated for alleged just cause (i.e., serious misconduct) and those that are employed pursuant to a fixed-term employment contract with a defined end-date.
Some employees may have rights under the common law or other legislation that give them greater rights than notice of termination (or termination pay) and severance pay under the ESA; because such rights generally cannot be enforced under the ESA, some employees may want to sue their former employer in court for “wrongful dismissal” or pursue other options. Employees should be aware that they cannot sue an employer for wrongful dismissal and file a claim for termination pay or severance pay with the ministry for the same termination or severance of employment, an employee must choose one or the other.