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

  • Indiana family plans to sue over tot's fatal fall from cruise ship

    World News CBC News
    There are "a million things" the cruise company could have done to prevent the death of an 18-month-old Indiana girl who fell to her death from an open window on a cruise ship in Puerto Rico, the toddler's mother said in an interview broadcast Monday. Source
  • U.S. police officer suggests Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be shot

    World News CTV News
    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., walks out of a House of Representatives office building, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Source
  • Trump expands fast-track deportation authority across U.S.

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO - The Trump administration is expanding the authority of immigration officers to deport migrants without requiring them to appear before judges ahead of deportation. The Homeland Security Department said Monday that fast-track deportations will apply to anyone in the country illegally less than two years. Source
  • Huawei hit with security questions as it unveils high-speed rural internet project

    Canada News CBC News
    Huawei Canada was hounded by questions about national security concerns and its ties to the Chinese government today as it announced that it will bring high-speed internet to a number of northern and rural communities. With tensions between China and Canada still running high over the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer in Vancouver, the Chinese telecommunications company announced Monday that it has federal approval to partner with two companies, Ice Wireless and Iristel, to connect 70…
  • Saskatchewan farmers convert old grain bins into unlikely tourist cabins

    Canada News CBC News
    Nothing says "Saskatchewan" quite like spending a night inside an old grain bin. In recent years two families in the province have converted decommissioned round metal grain bins into unlikely accommodations, and opened their yards for visitors to stay. Source
  • Police search for witnesses after man found dead, ejected from his car

    Canada News CTV News
    GEORGINA, Ont. -- York Regional Police are appealing to the public for witnesses following a fatal collision in south-central Ontario on the weekend. Police say they responded to a call in Georgina, Ont. Source
  • Titanic survivor's light-up cane goes for US$62,500 at auction

    World News CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Titanic survivor's walking stick with an electric light she used to signal for help from a lifeboat has sold for US$62,500 at an auction of maritime items in Rhode Island. Guernsey's auction house held the auction in Newport on Friday and Saturday. Source
  • O'Regan visits Attawapiskat, assures community in water crisis: 'We are not satisfied'

    Canada News CTV News
    Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan said Ottawa will bring medical teams to Attawapiskat First Nation this week, after he visited the reserve in northern Ontario on Sunday, at the request of the community's chief. Source
  • N.L. fishing guide among dead in Labrador plane crash, four still missing

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A funeral for an experienced fishing guide and father of three is to be held in Deer Lake, N.L., today, one week after a float plane that he and six others were on board crashed into a lake in Labrador. Source
  • Iran's supreme leader vows not to give up on Palestinians

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's supreme leader was quoted Monday as saying during a meeting with a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that his country won't give up its stance in support of the Palestinians. Source