Labour & Employment Law Blog

Zeilikman Law Successful in Motion for Summary Judgment

Zeilikman Law Successful in Motion for Summary Judgment

Zeilikman Law recently represented an employee plaintiff in Tarras v. The Municipal Infrastructure Group Ltd., 2022 ONSC 4522 (CanLII) (“Tarras”).

In Tarras, the plaintiff employee brought a motion for summary judgement pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of Civil Procedure for breach of contract and / or wrongful dismissal. The plaintiff employee (“Mr. Tarras”) was an engineer and one of the former owners and directing minds of the defendant company. Mr. Tarras (along with other former owners) had sold his interest in the company in December 2019 by way of a share sale to a large international engineering firm. At the time of the sale, Mr. Tarras had negotiated a fixed-term contract of 3 years which included a gross base salary along with other forms of compensation including fringe benefits and an incentive compensation plan. However, in November 2020, Mr. Tarras was in receipt of a termination letter from the defendant setting out that he was dismissed “without cause” effective the end of December 2020.

The parties had agreed that summary judgment was appropriate. The only dispute concerned the enforceability of the termination clause contained in the employment agreement which purported to limit Mr. Tarras’ rights to his statutory entitlements.

The judge went on to hold that the termination clause in the employment agreement was not enforceable. The language in the termination provision was in conflict of that found in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and the prevailing jurisprudence. As such, and relying on the decision of Waksdale, the court found that the termination clause rendered the entire termination clause void and unenforceable. To read more about the decision of Waksdale, please read our blog which can be found here.

The court went on to regard the defendant’s argument that the termination clause was enforceable because Mr. Tarras had the benefit of counsel throughout the negotiation of the agreement and because he was a sophisticated party with commercial experience as unpersuasive. The court followed the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Rahman that stands for the proposition that being a sophisticated party and having legal counsel are “subjective considerations” which should not be given any weight when assessing statutory compliance of contractual provisions in an employment context. Again, to read more about the decision of Rahman, please read our blog which can be found here.

The court likewise went on to find that Mr. Tarras did not have any obligation to mitigate his damages and that the balance of the fixed-term contract was owed to the plaintiff. It was the position of the court that in the absence of an enforceable contractual provision stipulating a fixed-term of notice that a fixed-term employment agreement obligates an employer to pay an employee to the end of the term. And that this obligation is not subject to mitigation. As such, the court awarded Mr. Tarras $479,166.67 plus benefits, representing the 23 months remaining in his fixed-term contract.

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.