Atlantic Employers’ Counsel – Spring 2015
Hello! We are very pleased to be the new Atlantic Employers’ Counsel (AEC) editors. We look forward to bringing you what we hope you will find to be interesting articles and we welcome your feedback.
To celebrate our inaugural edition, we thought probationary employees was an appropriate theme. And who better to write on that topic than four of Stewart McKelvey’s up-and-coming associates (with thanks as well to articled clerk, soon-to-join-us-as-an-associate in the Labour & Employment group, Dante Manna).
It all starts with the agreement.
Probationary periods are a useful tool for employers assessing the suitability of new hires.
Generally, a valid agreement setting out a probationary period allows the employer to dismiss an employee during the probationary period without meeting the high threshold of just cause.
Hiring employees on a probationary basis allows employers to ensure they hire the right people. While implementing trial periods for new employees has many advantages, employers should be aware of key rules applying to probationary employees to avoid potential costly liability should the relationship not work out.
A recent case from the Alberta Court of Appeal considered this question in the context of an employee with Asperger’s syndrome working at a call centre but, unfortunately, did not provide a definitive answer. Although the decision suggests that the duty to accommodate can be less onerous for probationary and short service employees, the threshold for establishing undue hardship is onerous and is always judged on a case by case basis.
Dismissing a short-term probationary employee can be a risky proposition, with expensive consequences if not done properly. Where just cause exists, the employee can be terminated with minimal risk that compensation will be awarded. However, in probationary employment, the decision to terminate is not always based on just cause. Instead it may be based on other considerations such as whether certain performance goals were met. This article focuses on how to terminate without just cause.
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