Terminated Ont. contractors given $125,000 in lieu of notice

TORONTO -- Ontario's top court has shut down another attempt by a kitchen company to get out of paying severance to two workers it alleged were contractors, not employees.

See Full Article

In its decision Wednesday, the Appeal Court agreed that Canac Kitchens owed Marilyn and Lawrence Keenan $125,000 in lieu of 26 months notice.

At issue, the court said, was the nature of the relationship between the couple and company based in Thornhill, Ont., which shut down abruptly in March 2009, and what might be a reasonable notice period.

Court documents show Canac employed Lawrence Keenan from 1976 installing kitchen cabinets. He worked his way up to foreman supervising installation crews. His wife, who had been helping her husband informally, began working for Canac in 1983 as a supervisor.

In 1987, the company told them they would no longer be considered employees, but could carry on their work as contractors. As part of the agreement, they had to agree to devote their full-time and attention to Canac, which was a division of U.S.-based Kohler.

The Keenans went along with the plan, essentially because they had little choice and because not much actually changed under the new arrangement. They still considered themselves loyal Canac employees, wore shirts with the Canac logo, and used the company's business cards, court records show.

When Canac shut down in 2009 -- he was now 63 years old and she was 61 -- the company said their services were no longer needed. Canac argued the Keenans, as independent contractors, were owed nothing. The couple sued.

In a decision early last year, Superior Court Justice Graeme Mew found the arrangement started in 1987 had been "almost exclusively for Canac's benefit," and that the Keenans had been "dependent" contractors and therefore entitled to reasonable notice of termination, which he set at 26 months.

Even though they had done some work for another company in the two years before their termination, Mew ruled that did not change the situation.

On appeal, Canac argued the Keenans should not have been considered dependent contractors because they had not been working exclusively for the company before the relationship ended.

The Appeal Court rejected the argument.

"Of the approximately 32 and 25 years of service that Lawrence Keenan and Marilyn Keenan respectively gave to Canac, in all but two of those years, they exclusively served Canac," the court said.

"For over a generation, they were Canac's public face to the outside world. Over a period of approximately 30 years -- the entirety of their working lives -- the Keenans' income had come from Canac and they relied on that income to support themselves and their family."

Given the nature and length of their service and ages at the time of termination, the Appeal Court agreed that damages equivalent to 26 months notice was reasonable -- similar to an award given in another case involving a former employee of the company.

The court also ordered Canac to pay the Keenans $24,000 in costs.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • German radio station apologizes after host compares K-pop band BTS to coronavirus

    World News CBC News
    A German radio station apologized Friday for a host's comments comparing popular South Korean K-pop band BTS to the coronavirus, saying his choice of words had gone too far but was in no way meant to be "hurtful or racist. Source
  • WE Charity had multiple 'opening' ceremonies for Kenya school: former donor

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A man who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for WE Charity says he believes two different groups of donors were told they had raised the money for a school in Kenya. Reed Cowan testified before a parliamentary committee today where he said he discovered a plaque that had once borne his late son's name had been replaced with the name of another donor. Source
  • 400 escape, 25 dead after Haiti prison breakout: officials

    World News CTV News
    PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- Haitian authorities announced Friday that more than 400 inmates escaped and 25 people died in a prison breakout, making it the country's largest and deadliest one in a decade, with the prison director and a powerful gang leader among those killed. Source
  • B.C. prisoners asked for masks for months, didn't receive PPE until they tested positive for COVID-19, mom says

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The mother of an inmate at a prison in B.C.'s Fraser Valley says her son and other prisoners have been asking for masks and other personal protective equipment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but weren't given any until several people in their cohort had tested positive for the disease. Source
  • Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine endorsed by U.S. advisers

    World News CBC News
    U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J's shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Source
  • Muslim woman targeted in racist attack says call to Edmonton police left her doubly traumatized

    Canada News CBC News
    A Black Muslim woman who was threatened and subjected to racial slurs at a south Edmonton LRT station says she has been doubly traumatized — by her assailant and city police. The woman, a student in her 20s who wears a hijab, says she remains terrified after the racially-motivated attack earlier this month. Source
  • Video shows officers posing in front of body; Vancouver police under investigation

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- A spokeswoman for Vancouver police says the conduct of two officers is under investigation after video footage emerged of the pair allegedly posing with a dead body at a popular beach. Const. Tania Visintin says the officers responded to calls about a deceased individual at Stanley Park's Third Beach, and waited for the coroner to arrive. Source
  • UN urges warring parties to halt fighting for vaccinations

    World News CTV News
    CAMEROON, CAMEROON -- The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a "sustained humanitarian pause" to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas. Source
  • Feds say Massachusetts man scammed 3 women out of $500,000

    World News CTV News
    BOSTON -- A Massachusetts man told women he met at online dating sites fantastic stories about being involved in explosions on foreign oil rigs and needing money to get out of a French jail to scam them out of more than $500,000, federal prosecutors said. Source
  • Black history must become part of Ontario’s curriculum to help fight systemic racism in schools, advocates say

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- An Ontario historian says Black history needs to become a mandatory part of the province’s curriculum instead of leaving it up to teachers to choose what kids will learn. Natasha Henry, the head of the Ontario Black History Society, told CTV News Toronto that her organization has been trying to push the province for decades to have Black history part of learning mandated in Ontario. Source