Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. was thought to put to rest the long-standing debate among adjudicators of whether federally regulated employers can dismiss an employee without just cause if they meet certain criteria (Part III of the the Canada Labour Code (“the Code”) provides protection in the form of reinstatement for employees dismissed “without just cause”).
In January of this year, the Court of Appeal upheld the Federal Court’s decision to allow an application for judicial review concluding that the adjudicator unreasonably found that the law permits only dismissals for cause.
The Federal Court criticized the adjudicator’s reliance on arbitral decisions to provide a basis for its broad conclusion, and emphasized that had Parliament intended to require just cause for all dismissals, it would have used clear language to that effect.
The Federal Court held that the regime set out in the Code permits dismissal without cause so long as the employer provides severance pay or notice as required under sections 230 and 235. Further, it was clarified that section 242 solely operates to allow employees the right to complain if they believe that their dismissal was unjust, providing examples such as discrimination or reprisal.
Leave to appeal has just been granted to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court did not provide reasons for granting leave, but the long-standing disagreement between adjudicators and the importance of this matter to federally regulated employers and employees is likely the reason.
I (and many other practioners) look forward to the SCC clearing up the issue once and for all.