Supreme Court ruling protects non-union workers from unjust dismissal

July 14, 2016

Today’s Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruling in Wilson v. AECL will deliver accountability and fairness to roughly 500,000 non-unionized federal employees, said the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The SCC upheld the interpretation that, under the Canada Labour Code, dismissing an employee without cause is unjust, and therefore not permitted.

“This ruling is a win for all federally-regulated employees, particularly those who do not currently benefit from the protection of a union. Now, about half a million people can rest assured that they can’t be terminated by their employers at will. Employers must have just cause for firing an employee,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.

The plaintiff in the case, Joseph Wilson, was fired from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) after having reported improper procurement practices within the organization. AECL never specifically denied having terminated Wilson’s employment for whistleblowing. Instead, AECL argued that because they paid him severance in lieu of notice, the dismissal was legal, and that termination without cause did not necessarily mean the termination was unjust.

The CLC and other Canadian unions intervened on behalf of the 500,000 non-union workers employed in banks, telecommunications, transportation companies and some Crown corporations, who will be affected by the ruling.

“We hope today’s ruling sends a wake-up call to employers. Firing someone without cause or warning is unfair, plain and simple. I applaud the court for recognizing this and upholding the principles of the Labour Code in their decision today,” said Yussuff.

The federal government has already committed to performing a review later this year of Part III of the Canada Labour Code, which covers unjust dismissal protection.

“We will keep pushing to strengthen protections for all workers. The government needs to seize this opportunity to more clearly define ‘unjust dismissal’ and reconfirm the original intent of a law intended to ensure that workers are treated fairly,” said Yussuff.