One of the questions employment lawyers hear most frequently is whether an employer is allowed to terminate an employee for no reason. The short answer? Yes. Unless your employment contract states otherwise, your employer does not need a good reason, or indeed any reason, to terminate your employment. A termination without a reason is called termination “without cause”.
Termination without a reason—termination with notice
A termination without cause does not mean you have no rights as an employee. Generally speaking, if you are terminated for no reason or “without cause”, then you must be provided with notice of the termination, or payment in lieu of notice. The amount of notice required is determined by the terms of your employment contract, relevant legislation, and common law legal principles. (See “Know Your Rights—Determining the Terms and Conditions of your Employment” and “What is reasonable notice?” for more information.)
Termination with a reason—termination for just cause
There are circumstances where an employer fires an employee for good reason, and as a result does not provide any notice to the employee. This is called a termination “for cause” or “with just cause”—if the employer has just cause to terminate the employee, the employer is not required to give notice of the termination. (See “What is just cause for termination?” for more information.)
One reason the employer cannot terminate you—a discriminatory reason
There is an important exception to the rule that you can be fired for any reason: the employer cannot fire you for a discriminatory reason. For example, your employer cannot terminate you because of your sex, race, sexual orientation, age, or disability, because that would violate human rights legislation. You should consult an employment lawyer if you have reason to believe you have been fired for discriminatory reasons.
Absent any discrimination, your employer can terminate you without cause, but with notice; or it can terminate you with just cause, and without notice. If you believe you have been terminated without just cause, and without adequate notice, you may have a case of wrongful dismissal, and you should seek advice from an employment lawyer.
We are here to help: Consult one of our experienced employment lawyers at Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne and Yazbeck LLP if you are considering making a claim for wrongful dismissal.
[The following information applies to non-unionized employees. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which cannot be given without consideration of your individual circumstances.]