Jan 25

Employer Meets The High Threshold Of With Cause Termination After Providing The Employee With Ample Warnings and Opportunities To Correct Their Conduct


The case of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) 2023 ONSC 5991 <https://canlii.ca/t/k16jg> examined by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, stands as a pivotal moment in employment law, particularly in the context of wrongful termination and the concept of ‘just cause’. This ruling sheds light on the complexities of employment relationships and the legal grounds upon which an employer can terminate an employee.

Background and Employment History

The plaintiff began her tenure with CIBC on December 13, 2004, as a Senior Financial Advisor. However, her employment journey with CIBC ended abruptly on July 25, 2013, when she was dismissed for cause. Following this, she filed a lawsuit against CIBC, claiming wrongful termination and seeking damages for mental distress and moral damages, among other claims​​.

During her time at CIBC, the plaintiff received two written warnings, pivotal in CIBC’s decision to terminate her employment. These warnings pointed to issues concerning her compliance with the bank’s policies and procedures​​.

Core Legal Dispute

The case centered on three key legal questions: whether CIBC had just cause for termination, the enforcement of the termination provision in the employment agreement, and the determination of appropriate damages if the dismissal was found unjustified​​.
The plaintiff contended that her termination was unwarranted, pointing to her longstanding record of complaint-free service and attributing work issues to personal and professional stressors​​.

CIBC’s Position and Court’s Analysis

CIBC argued that the dismissal was justified due to the plaintiff’s serious policy breaches. The court agreed, finding sufficient cause for termination​​.

The court’s decision was guided by legal principles concerning just cause for dismissal. It emphasized the employer’s burden to demonstrate serious misconduct or neglect of duty. The court examined the plaintiff’s adherence to specific CIBC policies, such as the Discretionary Overdraft Limit and the protocol for credit bureau checks​​.

Detailed Examination of Misconduct

The plaintiff’s conduct in relation to CIBC’s policies was scrutinized. Her handling of client overdrafts and failure to adhere to credit bureau check protocols were highlighted as significant breaches. These were not isolated incidents but part of a pattern that the court deemed incompatible with her duties​​.

Legal Framework for Just Cause Dismissal

The court’s ruling was influenced by legal precedents emphasizing the significance of employment in an individual’s life. To justify a dismissal for cause, it is required that the employer prove the employee’s conduct constituted a severe breach of their duties​​.

Implications for Employers and Employees

This case highlights the importance of having clear, documented policies and procedures for employers. It also stresses the need for maintaining thorough records of employee misconduct. For employees, it serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to workplace policies, especially in sectors where compliance is critical.

Extended Discussion on Employment Law

The CIBC case is a notable example within Canadian employment law, providing insights into the dynamics of employer-employee relationships and the legal thresholds for termination. The decision underscores the gravity of policy adherence in the workplace and the consequences of deviation from set protocols.

Employers must ensure that their policies are not only clear and comprehensive but also consistently applied and communicated to all employees. Regular training and updates on these policies can help maintain a workplace where rules are understood and followed.

Employees, on the other hand, should be proactive in understanding the policies of their workplace. Engaging in training sessions, asking questions when in doubt, and seeking clarifications on policy changes are crucial steps in ensuring compliance.

In cases of disputes like the one in CIBC, the role of documentation cannot be overstated. Detailed records of warnings, policy breaches, and any disciplinary actions taken are vital. These records become crucial evidence in legal proceedings, helping to paint a clear picture of the events leading to termination.

The case also highlights the role of personal circumstances in workplace conduct. While personal challenges can affect work performance, this case demonstrates that they do not always excuse non-compliance with workplace policies, especially in roles that require strict adherence to protocols for legal and ethical reasons.


The CIBC case is a comprehensive exploration of the legal complexities surrounding employment termination. It emphasizes the importance of policy adherence and the potential consequences of policy breaches in the workplace.

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