24 Month Labourer Severance

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While the character of one’s employment and the extent to which an employee has high level or senior managerial responsibilities, is declining in importance in the awarding of reasonable notice periods, traditionally long reasonable notice periods have been reserved for senior or high-ranking employees. This approach is evolving and recently, in a case before the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, a heavy-duty mechanic who was employed with his employer for 36 years was awarded 24 months of reasonable notice.

Mr. O worked for his employer for 36 years when his employer decided to close its Bassano office and centralize operations in Brooks, Alberta. Mr. O was notified in May 2018 that his termination would occur in 16 month’s time, in September 2019. As the September 2019 date neared, the Bassano office remained open and Mr. O kept working. On June 3, 2020, he was terminated and given one month’s notice, that being July 3, 2020.

Mr. O objected to the one month’s notice and retained counsel. The employer offered Mr. O his job back with a location in Brooks, Alberta but he refused and sued for wrongful dismissal. Employer’s counsel argued the following:

The May 22, 2018 Notice was effective working notice: The Court held this working notice had no effect after September 11, 2019 – the intended date of termination. Therefore, the one month’s notice he was provided in June 2020 was insufficient notice.

Mr. O failed to mitigate by refusing to take his job back with a re-location to Brooks: Generally, an employee has a legal obligation to act reasonably in the rejection of an offer of re-employment with the same company. Given Mr. O had lived in Bassano most of his life and so the Court concluded that his decision not to relocate to Brooks was reasonable. The Court noted that had the offer been to work in Bassano, it would have been unreasonable for Mr. O to have rejected the offer.

Notice Period: Due to his age (60 years), the fact Bassano would offer limited employment opportunities for Mr. O, the fact he had only worked for one employer his entire working life with one job description and one job title, the Court awarded Mr. O 24 months’ reasonable notice. In addition to his wages for 24 months, the Court awarded Mr. O his average monthly vacation pay, less CERB benefits, less earnings from a casual job he obtained.

Increasingly, it appears the courts are inclined to reward very long service employees, regardless of character of employment, with lengthy notice periods. Such awards take into account what is usually an older age upon termination and the fact that such employees may have worked their entire career with a singular job description and role. Thus making it difficult to find similar re-employment.

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