A recent unreported decision of Master Wacowich of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has helped to clarify a vital area of employment law in Alberta. What is required in employment contracts if an employer wants to exclude common law reasonable notice and limit an employee to the statutory minimum notice of termination? The case concerned a contract which read as follows:
Additionally, your employment may be terminated at any time without cause upon the provision by [the Employer] of the minimum notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice, benefits, and, if applicable, severance pay prescribed by applicable employment standards legislation in the province in which you are employed. The provision of such notice or pay in lieu of notice, benefits, and severance pay constitutes full and final satisfaction of all rights or entitlements which you may have arising from or related to the termination of your employment, including notice, pay in lieu of notice, severance pay, etcetera, whether pursuant to contract, common law, statute, or otherwise.
The decision says that wording is clear enough to exclude common law reasonable notice. It supports a template for language which Alberta employers can use in future employment contracts if they want to avoid wrongful dismissal suits claiming the often expensive and uncertain “reasonable notice”. The decision effectively overrules a previous Provincial Court decision going the other way and clarifies a previous Court of Appeal decision which rejected a clumsier attempt using ambiguous language which failed to refer to the minimum requirements of the Employment Standard Code.