A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice touches upon a little discussed area of employment law. Specifically, when does the limitation period clock start running for a claim of wrongful dismissal?
Courts have previously recognized that older employees may struggle to find comparable re-employment. In a recent decision, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded 24 months’ common law reasonable notice to a dismissed employee who was 61 years old at the time of dismissal. This decision provides some helpful direction and guidance for employers that move to terminate the employment of older, long service employees from their organization.
When advising a wrongfully terminated employee as to her legal rights and obligations, I always point out that a wrongful dismissal claim is not like winning the lottery. While employers are obligated to provide reasonable notice of termination or payment in lieu of such notice, terminated employees must make “reasonable efforts” to find new employment. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. What must a dismissed employee do to meet her obligation to mitigate? What have courts determined to be reasonable steps? What conduct has been held to be unreasonable? From whose perspective will reasonableness be judged–the employers or the employees?
Damages for wrongful dismissal are intended primarily to compensate the dismissed employee for income lost due to the dismissal. As such, the amount of such compensation, whether as a result of a settlement or a judgment by the court is, prima facie, taxable.
Mitigation of damages in the context of a wrongful dismissal claim is one of those concepts that is often referred to but not well understood.