By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
When legal secretary Shirley Matttiassi was phased out by the law firm Thomson Rogers after 26 years, she was entitled to 26 weeks of severance pay in addition to over a year of working notice provided by her employer.
Matttiassi was given written notice on November 16, 2009 that she was terminated from her job effective November 30, 2010. She worked for the entire 54 weeks and was paid her salary during that time.
On November 19, 2010, she received a letter from Hathro Management Partnership (the company providing administrative services to Thomson, Rogers) reminding her that her employment would end 11 days later. The letter included a cheque for two months wages.
Although the 54 weeks of working notice was much more generous that the minimum eight weeks required, she sued for 26 the weeks of severance pay she believed she was also entitled to under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, minus the two months of wages she already received.
Matttiassi believed that under the the Employment Standards Act she was entitled to eight weeks of termination pay or equivalent working notice, plus a week of severance pay for every year of service (26 weeks).
Lawyers for Thomson Rogers argued that 54 weeks of working notice and the additional voluntary payment for two months of salary exceeded the minimum requirements of Employment Standards Act.
Mattiassi’s lawyer disagreed and said a termination notice and severance pay are two separate statutory requirements.
The judge agreed with her lawyer that just because she got 54 weeks of working notice, it did not cancel out the legal obligation to provide 26 weeks of severance pay.
The law firm argued that Hathro was the true employer, but Deputy Judge Prattas found Mattiassi was employed by both Hathro and Thomson Rogers, so both were liable for 18 weeks of severance in the amount of $16,083.21 plus costs of $1,250.
In a company blog, Ron Minken of Minken Employment lawyers says, “This case highlights the need for employers to ensure the correct amounts of statutory payments are paid on termination. Failure to do so can result in costly litigation.” He also notes that even where employees sign a release, they cannot preclude themselves from their stautory entitlement.