Ending the Employment Relationship: Important Considerations for Termination

Ending an employment relationship can be difficult. When terminating an employee, employers should ensure they take the appropriate steps to minimize their risks.

“Things are Just Not Working Out” – Dismissal Without Cause

Maybe the employee is not the right fit for the organization and things are not working out. An employer may dismiss a non-unionized employee on a without cause basis for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory or in retaliation for exercising statutory employee rights. They must, however, provide notice or pay in lieu of notice in accordance with The Saskatchewan Employment Act, the employment agreement, and the common law if applicable. If there are concerns about potential litigation from the employee, or questions about the amount of notice that is required, legal counsel should be consulted prior to termination.

“Give Them Another Chance” – Progressive Discipline

Performance issues or minor misconduct may begin to lay the ground work for a termination from employment for cause. Before letting an employee go for cause, an employer should ensure they have adequately informed the employee that their conduct has been unacceptable and advise them their employment may be terminated if it does not improve. The employee needs to understand what efforts they can make to address the issues and improve their performance. When discipline is imposed, it should match the seriousness of the misconduct. If misconduct continues, sanctions should escalate. All misconduct and discipline needs to be addressed in a timely manner and documented.

“Time to Walk Away” – Termination for Just Cause

An employer may terminate a person’s employment for just cause when there has been serious misconduct or in some circumstances, where an employee fails to repeatedly meet well-known, reasonable performance standards. Where just cause is established, the employer will not be required to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice. Termination for just cause carries greater risk of litigation. It is the employer who bears the onus of proving there was just cause for termination if challenged. The standard for just cause is high; often higher than many employers may have initially thought. The employer should ensure they have thoroughly investigated the situation before ending the relationship and that they have the required evidence to demonstrate that the just cause standard was met. Depending on the circumstances an employer may determine that a less risky option, such as termination without cause, is more appropriate.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.