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Canadian Couple Lands $125,000 Reward in Precedent-Setting Misclassification Case

via Toronto Star

via Toronto Star

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A married Canadian couple who worked for Canac Kitchens were let go without notice or severance in 2009 after 30 years at the company.  This was permissible because since 1987 they had been classified as independent contractors.  

But legal vindication was pursued, and now a new precedent has been set in Ontario. The crown found that the company owed the couple 26 months notice and rewarded them $125,000, the highest notice period ever awarded in Canada.  It also means that Ontario companies will be expected to give the same notices to employees as they do to independent contractors.

The Toronto Star featured the couple, Lawrence and Marilyn Keenan, over the weekend.

“We spent the best years of our working life there,” Marilyn Keenan said.  “It was good to know that there’s someone there who can help you get what you deserve.”

The Keenan’s lawyer, Matthew Fisher, added: “It’s a very strong statement against companies who are trying to avoid obligations to their workers by simply calling them contractors rather than employees.”

Although they became independent contractors, the couple said the designation meant little to them.  They were loyal employees who wore company shirts and attended company events.  Both were given rings by management for their length of service.  For the final two years of their tenure with the company they did a small amount of work for a competitor, but only because there was not enough work at Canac.

The final court ruling noted:

“For over a generation they were Canac’s public face to the outside world. Over a period of approximately thirty years — the entirety of their working lives — the Keenan’s income had come from Canac and they relied on that income to support themselves and their family.

The lengthy court battle against the company ended in January when the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Keenan’s.  Now, employers in the province of Ontario have been put on notice: misclassification will cost you in the end.


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