Labour & Employment Law Blog

Are an Employer’s Financial Circumstances Relevant when Determining what a Wrongfully Dismissed Employee is Entitled?

Zeilikman Law

Zeilikman Law

Case Summary

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s Decision in Michela v. St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic School, 2015 ONCA 801


Domenica Michela, Sergio Gomes and Catherine Carnoval (hereinafter the “appellants”) are school teachers who were employed by St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic School (hereinafter the “respondent”), a private school, on a series of one-year contracts. The appellants were employed by the respondent for a total of thirteen (13), eleven (11) and eight (8) years respectively.

The appellants each received a letter advising that their contracts would not be renewed for the upcoming academic year due to lower projected enrollment. Each appellant also received a follow up letter or email a month later confirming their termination.

The appellants brought an action for wrongful dismissal. The respondents submitted that the appellants were not entitled to notice because the natures of their employment contracts were fix-term. The motion judge rejected this argument and held that the appellants were employed for indefinite periods and therefore entitled to reasonable notice of termination. The motion judge further found that the reasonable notice period to be twelve (12) months, but reduced the award for the appellants to six (6) months on the basis of the respondent’s financial situation.


The appeal was allowed for the reasons that follow.

The Court held that the motion judge erred by including the respondent’s financial circumstances as a factor in considering the character of the employment. The Court went on to note that determining a reasonable notice period is fact-specific with the relevant factors set out in Bardal v. Globe & Mail Ltd., (1960), 24 D.L.R. (2d) 140 (Ont.H.C.) at p. 145. However, the Court found that these factors do not include the financial circumstances of the employer. Specifically the Court set out that “an employer’s financial circumstances are not relevant to the determination of reasonable notice in a particular case: they justify neither a reduction in the notice period in bad times nor an increase when times are good.” (para 17).

The Court concluded that the reduction from a notice period that has been established as reasonable is not supported by case law and is contrary to the objective of an employee’s right to reasonable notice or pay in lieu of reasonable notice.


Although an employer’s financial circumstances may be the reason for the termination of an employee, it cannot erode the right of an employee to reasonable notice. Otherwise, employers with prosperous financial circumstances at the time of termination would be left open to lengthen the notice period by virtue of their positive financial situation. This case gives greater certainty to the purpose of an employee’s right to a reasonable notice period as well as what factors are relevant in establishing the reasonable period.

The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.

Legal Receptionist

Zeilikman Law is an employment law firm located in Vaughan, Ontario. We are looking to hire a legal receptionist to join our firm. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience working as a receptionist at another law firm.

Location: Vaughan, Ontario.

Start Date: Immediately.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Full time. In-person only. This is not a remote work position.

Wages: 35,000 to 40,000 per year.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage our firm’s multi-line telephone system to receive incoming calls.  Screen incoming telephone call inquiries to determine the nature of the telephone call and provide standard information related to our legal services.  Take and deliver messages and route incoming telephone calls to the appropriate staff person.
  • Answer general inquiries coming from the firm’s social media and website email.
  • Welcome in-person visitors upon arrival.  Direct visitors to the appropriate staff person and / or office or boardroom.
  • Organize in-person visitor schedule to prevent overlap and multiple bookings.
  • Receive, sort, and distribute daily mail and deliveries.
  • Arrange for couriers.
  • Keep front reception, kitchenette area and boardroom tidy.
  • Perform various clerical duties such as filing, photocopying, and faxing on an as-needed basis.
  • Process client or other payments.
  • May be asked to run minor errands outside of office such as attending post office to arrange a courier or pick up mail.
  • May be asked to assist other law clerks or lawyers of the firm as required and as appropriate.
  • Any other basic administrative duties or tasks as deemed appropriate.

Required Skills:

  • Basic knowledge of general office procedures including filing, faxing, and printing and copying.
  • Basic word processing computer skills.
  • Proficient in receptionist and telephone practices, etiquette, and decorum.
  • Professional attitude and appearance.
  • Excellent organizational skills.
  • Positive customer service attitude is a must.
  • Must be able to maintain confidential and sensitive information.

Education and Experience:

  • Highschool diploma or equivalent.
  • 1 – 2 years’ experience in an office setting with an emphasis in accounting, reception or clerical work is required.   We would prefer experience in a law firm environment.

Applications for this position should be sent via email to jennifer@zeilikmanlaw.com. All applications should include a cover letter, resume and at least two references. Only successful candidates will be contacted.