SHB Partner Walter Stella has co-authored an article for The National Law Journal exploring the differences between employment laws in the United States and Canada. The article, titled "Cross-Border Issues: Employers Find a Different World Up (or Down) There," specifically addresses termination of the employment relationship. In the United States, most employment is considered "at will" and "may be terminated at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all." The authors explain how this concept works, how some relationships may constitute a contractual departure from at-will status, and how U.S. courts and legislatures have created exceptions to the doctrine.
According to the article, at-will employment does not exist in Canada. There, in the case of "all written and verbal employment contracts of no specific duration," employers must provide the employee with advance reasonable notice of the termination of employment or a payment in lieu of such notice. The consequences of violating this obligation can be severe. Employees may sue not only for the wages, benefits and perquisites to which they would have been entitled if proper notice had been given, they may also seek punitive damages for discriminatory and harassing behavior. The authors conclude by noting that companies employing individuals in both countries must be alert to differences in the laws applying to employment terminations as well as to "all aspects of the employment relationship." To read this informative article, please click here.