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Employee dismissals are rife with conflict and since 2014 the economics of litigating wrongful dismissal claims had improved dramatically. This is in part because quality employees have been unable to quickly find alternative work in a depressed economy and in part because more Albertans are relying on streamlined resolution processes I call Summary Resolutions.
“Summary Resolution” encompasses two legal procedures: Summary Applications; and, Summary Trials. A Summary Judgment Application (Summary Application) is heard by a Master or a Judge and it essentially allows parties to skip lengthy trials. The process is designed to allow the decision-maker to grant judgment on the basis of written affidavit evidence and admissions without witness testimony or lengthy assessments of credibility. A Summary Trial is a more robust process and is heard by a Justice empowered to weigh evidence, assess credibility, and decide contested matters. A Summary Trial is still a trial, but it is meant for less complicated and contentious matters. The advantage of both is that they can be scheduled sooner and produce outcomes faster.
Employment relationships are complicated (what relationship isn’t?), but in a legal sense, most dismissal claims are straightforward. Dismissal claims typically turn on whether or not an employee was terminated for cause. Any employee terminated for cause is not entitled to notice or pay in lieu of notice. If the parties can agree dismissal was without cause, the remaining facts required to determine a wrongful dismissal claim are easy to ascertain.
The goal in any wrongful dismissal claim is to determine the appropriate notice period and resulting damages. In order to determine what is appropriate, Courts assess several factors including age of the employee, character of employment, and length of service. Many of the factors can be determined by quick reference to an employee’s CRA Notices of Assessment, Record of Employment, and Job Description. Of course there is always room for some debate (particularly involving job duties and responsibilities), but typically the factual issues at play in a dismissal claim are relatively straightforward to determine.
Many cases of wrongful dismissal hinge on straightforward facts and do not require lengthy, costly, and time-consuming trials to resolve. Because of this, wrongful dismissal claims are ideal candidates for Summary Resolution. Courts are also becoming more favorable to resolving matters via Summary Resolution. In the landmark 2014 case Hryniak v Mauldin the Supreme Court of Canada advocated for a culture shift away from conventional trials and toward procedures like Summary Resolution. The Court is advocating for this shift because Summary Resolutions are much quicker, and reduce the amount of judicial resources spent on individual cases.
Resolving a summary matter requires the time of a single Master or Justice, and can typically be decided in a morning or afternoon rather than over days or weeks. If an employer or employee pursues Summary Resolution, there is the potential for a speedier resolution of employment claims. Fast resolutions reduce costs for the parties and provide much needed closure. Whether you are an employee or an employer, you will want to consider Summary Resolution if you find yourself in a dismissal-related dispute. Talk to your lawyer to see if your case is a good fit for Summary Resolution.