Labour & Employment Law Blog

Court of Appeal Finds No Reasonable Notice in Fixed Term Employment

Zeilikman Law

Zeilikman Law

Case Summary


In a recent decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal awarded a former employee restitutionary damages rather than pay in lieu of reasonable notice.

The employee was a manager at an automotive service centre in Bowmanville under a fixed-term, five-year contract. His employer, Benson Group Inc., terminated the employment contract without cause after twenty-three months. The central issue on appeal was whether the employee was entitled to common-law damages for wrongful dismissal or, alternatively, for the money he would have earned had the contract run its course.

At trial, the motion judge found that the termination clause in the contract was too ambiguous so as to displace the common-law notice provision, and therefore awarded the employee pay in lieu of the common-law notice period. On appeal, Miller J.A. found that the contract did displace the common-law notice provision by virtue of the fact that it was a fixed-term contract, entitling the employee to the money he would have earned had the contract not been breached.


The decision is notable not only because it is binding law on lower courts, but also because it reminds us that employment law is still fundamentally an area of contract law. Contract interpretation is often a key element of resolving disputes regarding termination. Under the common-law, reasonable notice is calculated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a variety of factors which may affect an employee’s likelihood in finding alternative employment in a similar field. Absent language to the contrary, the common-law notice period is implied into the employment contract. However, parties may contract out of the common-law notice period. Historically, courts have placed a heavy burden on employers seeking to oust the common-law notice period. Parties seeking to contract out of the common-law notice period must set out their intention to do so with clear, unequivocal language to that effect.

Employers and employees alike should keep this in mind when contemplating a fixed-term contract. It is always recommended that parties to an employment contract turn their minds to the issue of termination and formulate a clause that best suits both parties’ respective needs.

See: Howard v Benson Group Inc. 2016 ONCA 256 (CanLII)

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.