This decision serves as an important reminder to employers to draft clear and enforceable termination provisions in order to avoid unanticipated liability upon termination. In particular, the Movati decision confirms that should an employer want to limit its obligations upon termination to the minimum entitlements required by statute, it is necessary to include clear words of limitation.
Asking existing employees to sign new employment contracts can be a sensitive topic. Employees will undoubtedly wonder why they are being asked to do so. Many will quite rightly assume that the employer’s main motive for having new contracts be signed is to protect the employer – not the employee. Some will sign without issue, while others will refuse to do so.
In Wood v Fred Deeley Imports Ltd., the Ontario Court of Appeal seemed to make a definitive statement about the interpretation of termination provisions in employment agreements: a court will invalidate them when they contain actual or technical deficiencies. However, the same Court’s decision last year in Oudin v Centre Francophone de Toronto seemed to reach a different conclusion: the court will apply contractual certainty to give effect to the parties’ intentions. Can the two be reconciled? Closer inspection reveals that each decision is specific to the employment agreements in each.