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Terminations: What Is "Just Cause"?

Employers may end employment of an individual at any time. Generally, there are two different types of termination of an employee: with cause or without cause. With cause, also known as just cause, means that there is a specific reason for the termination that is so serious it justifies termination.

In this situation, employers are not obligated to provide any compensation to the employee as long as they can prove the reason for the termination. However, there are certain criteria to be met in order to terminate employees with just cause.

Grounds for just cause may include if an employee committed a criminal act, such as fraud, theft or assault of some kind, in the workplace or connected to the workplace. However, non-criminal offences, such as breaking company rules, may also be grounds for just cause. Performance issues such as lateness or failure to perform tasks can also be grounds for termination, but an employer must do the following:

  • provide clear guidance to the employee with respect to the standards expected, such as through consistently enforced company policies or performance evaluations;
  • communicate the performance issues to the employee;
  • provide the employee with a reasonable opportunity to address those issues; and
  • warn of the consequences if the performance issues were not addressed.

    If an employer addresses performance issues in this way but they continue, it is possible that an employer may have grounds to terminate an employee for just cause. If you have questions over how a termination was handled, or whether adequate compensation was provided, it's best to discuss the matter with an experienced employment lawyer. He or she will be able to determine if your situation meets the requirements of just cause and to outline your potential options.

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