Employees who are terminated without notice can sue employers for the total compensation, including bonus payments, which they would have otherwise received during the notice period if reasonable notice had been given.
Bonus plans in employment contracts are a great way to motivate, reward and retain employees. Many of these bonus plans have built–in conditions that must be met before these bonuses are paid out. For example, an employee must be actively employed at the time the bonus is paid. Increasingly, the courts are being asked to determine whether these conditions have to be met and whether a bonus is owing. A recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal will come as a surprise to many of you.
In assessing either termination packages, or damages flowing from wrongful dismissal, counsel is often faced with a myriad of non salaried compensation payable to employees. This compensation includes items such as stock options, stock grants, non monetary benefits such as health and dental insurance, and bonuses. Over the years, the provisions of bonus plans have become more sophisticated, and more complicated. Employers have attempted, with the assistance of counsel, to include provisions for various contingencies in these bonus plans in order to better protect the employer. However, the more complicated the plan, the more difficult it is to assess whether or not a dismissed employee is, in fact, entitled to compensation for bonuses which might have been earned during the period of reasonable notice.