The question of ‘what constitutes reasonable notice’ is one of the most frequently litigated issues in employment law. There are numerous decisions from every level of court in Ontario which discuss the obligations of an employer to provide a reasonable period of notice to dismissed employees. However, it is a relatively rare occurrence that the Court deals with the inverse – the reasonable period of notice due to an employer by an employee who resigns. While most of us are familiar with the old adage of giving your ‘two weeks’ notice, the recent decision in Gagnon may call into question the sufficiency of such short notice.
The issue of whether termination clauses contained within employment agreements will be enforceable is one that routinely arises. As I have discussed on many occasions, many employers weaken their legal position by entering into a verbal agreement, or presenting an “offer letter”, and then subsequently asking their new employee to sign a far more detailed employment agreement that is designed solely for the benefit of the employer.
Employment lawyers spend a lot of time assessing whether contracts of employment are enforceable or not. The first thing that I check, when I review a contract of employment, is the date. What I'm attempting to determine is whether the contract was signed before or after there was already a verbal agreement in place.