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Can Employment Termination Meetings be Done Remotely?

May 13, 2021

Can Employment Termination Meetings be Done Remotely?

Authors: Dylan Snowdon and Anita Nowinka

In the 1997 landmark ruling Wallace v. United Grain Growers Ltd, the Supreme Court of Canada recognised that termination of employment places employees in a vulnerable position. To ensure that employees receive adequate protection when their employment is terminated, the Court determined employers “ought to be held to an obligation of good faith and fair dealing in the manner of dismissal.”

This decision followed a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision, Reference Re Public Service Employee Relations Act (Alta.),  where the Court explained the need for employee protection in more detail. The Court noted that “work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self-worth and emotional well-being…. Any change in a person’s employment status is bound to have far-reaching repercussions…[and] when this change is involuntary, the extent of our ‘personal dislocation’ is even greater.”

For decades, employers have largely fulfilled their requirement to conduct termination meetings in good faith by minimizing an employee’s potential embarrassment and avoiding parading the terminated employee through the workplace as well as by maximizing the amount of professional courtesy including using an in-person termination meeting.  The employer’s overarching goal should be to avoid being insensitive, demeaning or otherwise humiliating an employee who is in a vulnerable position.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person termination meetings have become anywhere from inconvenient for people working predominantly from home to potentially impossible in some cases. 

Can Employment Termination Meetings be Done Remotely?

Yes.  There is no legal requirement that specifies a termination meeting must be held in person.  In many cases, an employer can provide greater respect for the employee and limit their embarrassment by removing the need to attend the workplace for a termination meeting.

If a termination meeting is conducted remotely, employers should provide a formal termination letter containing all details of the termination discussed during the phone or video meeting to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

Regardless of how a termination meeting is conducted, it should be respectful.  Employees who receive an offer of a severance payment in exchange for a release should also receive time to review the offer and potentially discuss it with their own legal counsel.  Employers conducting termination meetings remotely should take notes of what was said and keep them with the employee’s personnel file.

If you have any questions or concerns about terminations of employment, please contact any of Carbert Waite’s Employment Law Team for assistance.

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