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Employment - Contracting Out of the Common Law

. Howard v. Benson Group Inc. (The Benson Group Inc.)

In Howard v. Benson Group Inc. (The Benson Group Inc.) (Ont CA, 2020) the Court of Appeal affirmed that a contactual term that varies from the common law (such as in Bardal), must be "unequivocal":
[29] The respondent sought to use a fixed term contract either to eliminate its severance obligation entirely or to limit it to two weeks’ notice on an early termination. It was, of course, free to do this. But the courts have consistently held that the consequences to an employee of such a bargain are so significant that the employer must communicate clearly in the contract that this is what it is intending to do: Ceccol, at para. 27. If an employer does not use unequivocal, clear language and instead drafts an ambiguous or vague termination clause that is later found to be unenforceable, it cannot complain when it is held to the remaining terms of the contract.

[30] I conclude that the motion judge erred in not finding that the Employment Contract, without Clause 8.1, clearly established a notice period equal to the unexpired portion of the fixed term contract. The motion judge further erred in not finding that this notice period ousted the common law presumption of reasonable notice.


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