Last year, the Ontario Superior Court held that a wrongfully dismissed employee may be required to go back to work if recalled by his or her employer. I discussed that case here.
This past week, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the trial court decision and dismissed the appeal in Chevalier v. Active Tire & Auto Centre.
The Ontario Court of Appeal acknowledged that the plaintiff had been wrongfully dismissed when he was improperly put on a “lay-off.” The lay off came about after the employer tried to performance manage the employee before it put him on lay-off.
The plaintiff sued right away for constructive dismissal after being put on lay off. Right after he began his lawsuit, the employer recalled him to work. He refused to return and took the case to trial, arguing that the workplace had become “poisoned.”
However, at trial, the Ontario Superior Court held that there was no “demeaning, objectionable or retributory conduct” by the employer and that the constructively dismissed employee should have returned to work.
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld this decision. In doing so, it has reinforced the idea that when an employer tries to implement a performance improvement plan, this will not necessarily create a poisoned work atmosphere. But more importantly, the Court of Appeal has reinforced the Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence in Evans v. Teamsters Local Union 31 which states that wrongfully dismissed employees may be required to return to work if recalled by their employers. This can apply even after the employee files a lawsuit. Failing to return to work can lead to a finding of “failure to mitigate damages.” The dismissed employee can lose the case completely in these circumstances.
Dismissed employees who are recalled to work will need to consider the recall notice very carefully. Continuing on with a lawsuit after an employer purports to call the employee back to work can be risky and ultimately, very costly.