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

  • Corriveau sentencing on fraud conviction set for Jan. 25

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - An ex-Liberal organizer convicted of fraud related to the federal sponsorship scandal will be sentenced Jan. 25. Jacques Corriveau wasn't present in a Montreal courtroom today as lawyers finalized a division of his assets to repay the amount he owes the federal government. Source
  • Woman beaten with metal bar, home set on fire in dispute over text message

    Canada News CTV News
    KINGSTON, Ont. -- A 39-year-old man from Kingston, Ont. is facing multiple charges after allegedly beating his domestic partner with a metal bar and setting their home on fire. Kingston police say the incident began on Friday afternoon when the man became angry over a text message his partner had received. Source
  • Air Canada computer issue affects affecting booking, check-ins nationwide

    Canada News CTV News
    Air Canada says technical difficulties were affecting its booking and check-in services across Canada on Tuesday. In a statement emailed to CTVNews.ca, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick confirmed that the airline was experiencing technical issues that began disrupting service on Tuesday morning. Source
  • Another woman was in the room during 'awkward' medical exam, witness testifies

    Canada News CTV News
    GATINEAU, Que. - The court martial of a former petty officer accused of breach of trust and sexual assault has been told another woman was in the room during what a female witness described as an awkward medical exam. Source
  • Grassy Narrows chief wants Trudeau's commitment to mercury cleanup

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation says he welcomes Ontario's promise to find mercury hot spots that have poisoned the water, but he wants the federal government to commit to cleaning up the contamination. Source
  • LIVE: Garland's father says his son spoke of business dispute with Liknes

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Relatives of Douglas Garland, charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the disappearances of a five-year-old boy and his grandparents, are taking the stand on the second day of his trial. Crown lawyer Vicki Faulkner told the court Monday, that four days after the disappearance of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and Nathan O’Brien, police found a smouldering burn barrel on Douglas Garland's parents' farm. Source
  • Brazil struggles to curb prison violence that has killed at least 125

    World News CTV News
    RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian authorities are scrambling to stop a wave of prison violence that has killed at least 125 inmates in two weeks, many with their heads cut off or their hearts and intestines ripped out. Source
  • Fla. airport shooting suspect blamed 'mind control,' Islamic State ties

    World News CTV News
    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The man suspected of fatally shooting five people and wounding six others at a Florida airport told investigators initially he was under government mind control and then claimed to be inspired by Islamic State websites and chatrooms, authorities said at a hearing Tuesday. Source
  • Turkey: Istanbul nightclub attacker confessed after capture

    World News CTV News
    ISTANBUL -- The accused perpetrator of a New Year's nightclub attack in Istanbul has confessed and his fingerprints are a match, Turkish authorities said Tuesday. They identified him as an Uzbek national who trained in Afghanistan and staged the attack for the Islamic State group. Source
  • Orlando shooter Omar Mateen’s widow faces charges tied to attack

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — The wife of the Orlando nightclub shooter was arrested Monday by the FBI, a U.S. law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official said Noor Salman was taken into custody Monday morning in the San Francisco area and is due in court Tuesday in California. Source