Impact of Pregnancy on the Reasonable Notice Period
Wrongfully dismissed employees are generally entitled to damages for lost earnings and benefits arising from an employer’s failure to provide reasonable notice of termination of employment.
The core factors used to determine the length of the reasonable notice period include the following:
- Length of the employee’s service with the employer
- Age of the employee
- Nature of the position
- Availability of similar employment in view of the employee’s experience, training and qualifications
The above list is not exhaustive. Judges have considered additional factors to determine the appropriate length of notice that an employer ought to have given a dismissed employee.
One such factor is pregnancy.
In a recent case, Nahum v. Honeycomb Hospitality Inc., 2021 ONSC 1455 (CanLII), the court squarely considered the impact of pregnancy on the reasonable notice period.
The Plaintiff was hired by Honeycomb in a human resources position, Director of People and Culture, where she worked for 4.5 months, until her employment was terminated without cause. At the time of the termination of her employment, the plaintiff was 5 months pregnant. Honeycomb gave her merely 1 week’s notice of termination. The Plaintiff’s baby was born about 4 months later.
The court reviewed previous cases in which pregnancy was found to be a factor which increased the notice period, including:
- Tremblette v. Aardvark Pest Control Limited,  O.J. No. 2380, 16 C.C.E.L. 306 (Ont. Dist. Ct.)
- Ivens v. Automodular Assemblies Inc.,  O.J. No. 3129, 162 O.A.C. 124 (Div. Ct.)
- Harris v. Yorkville Sound Ltd., 2005 CanLII 46394(Ont. S.C.)
Ultimately, the court held that the Plaintiff’s pregnancy was an important factor in assessing reasonable notice.
In the outcome, the Plaintiff was awarded damages equivalent to 5 months’ pay and benefits (less the lone week of notice that she was provided).
In other words, the Plaintiff was notionally paid for the period following the termination of her employment until her baby was 1 month old.
The question of whether the Plaintiff may have been entitled to damages for breach of the Human Rights Code was not before the Court.
If you have questions about your entitlements upon termination or contact Zubas Flett Law for counsel. Contact us at 416-593-5844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.