Labour & Employment Law Blog

Ontario Small Claims Court Makes Big Decision

Zeilikman Law

Zeilikman Law

Case Summary

An employer ordered by the Ontario Small Claims Court to pay severance despite having provided their former employee a total of sixty-two (62) weeks working notice and ex gratia payment upon termination. The court found that although the sixty-two (62) weeks exceeded the employee’s cumulative entitlements to severance and notice under the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”), severance cannot be offset against notice, requiring the employer to make an additional payment to satisfy their separate severance requirement under the ESA.


The employee in this dispute had been working as a legal assistant with the defendant employer for twenty-six (26) years. Upon termination without cause, the employee was given fifty-four weeks working notice, in addition to an ex gratia payment of $8,041.67. Under the ESA, the employee was entitled to a total of thirty-four weeks: eight (8) weeks for notice of termination and twenty-six (26) weeks for severance pay. The Employer argued that they had fulfilled their requirements under the ESA by paying fifty-four (54) weeks, which, in total, amounted to more than the employee was entitled to under the ESA. The employee argued that money paid in lieu of notice could not be offset against severance pay. The court agreed with the employee.

Reviewing the ESA along with relevant case-law, the Court found that severance and notice are two, separate requirements that cannot be combined or offset against one another. Specifically, when an employer attempts to contract out of the common-law requirements for severance and notice, they must be able to establish that they have complied with both minimum standards in respect of severance and notice. Of importance is also the fact that the employee in this case was given working notice rather than a lump-sum payment in lieu of notice. Given that severance is supposed to be paid in lump-sum, the court reasoned that the fifty-four (54) weeks notice could not be used to satisfy the severance requirement because it did not ‘look’ like severance.


It will be interesting to see how the reasoning in Mattiassi will apply to future decisions. It has already become apparent that the reasoning in Mattiassi applies to situations where the employee is given a working notice. However, does this decision mean that employers will have to separate severance and notice payments completely? Or does this simply mean that employers will have to set out their calculations regarding the amount of money being given separately for notice and for severance.

See: Mattiassi v Hathro Management Partnership, 2011 Ontario Small Claims Court

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.