Mar 1

Understanding the Complexities of Employment Contracts and Wrongful Dismissal: CF+D Custom Fireplace Design Inc.


In the intricate world of employment law, CF+D Custom Fireplace Design Inc. (2023 ONSC 6708) <>, presided over by Justice M. Bordin in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, offers a comprehensive exploration of employment contract interpretation and wrongful dismissal. This case concluded on December 1, 2023, delves into the nuances of contractual obligations, termination rights, and the calculation of damages in the event of a dismissal. By examining this case, we can glean significant insights into the legal landscape that governs employer-employee relationships, especially concerning contractual terms and their enforcement.

Background: The Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against his former employer, CF+D Custom Fireplace Design Inc. (“CF+D”), and Vince Volpe, the director and president of CF+D (the “Defendant’s”), for wrongful dismissal. The Plaintiff, who was hired as a senior project manager, was terminated without cause after less than five months of employment and was paid two weeks’ severance pay. A key point of contention was the entitlement to a payment based on shares in CF+D, which the Plaintiff claimed were part of his employment contract.

Contractual Terms and Interpretation: The employment contract, signed by the Plaintiff and CF+D, included several provisions such as an annual salary, holiday pay, benefits, and a unique clause about earning 1% of the company shares annually for five consecutive years. The interpretation of this clause, particularly concerning the annual payment and share ownership, became a focal point in the lawsuit.
Justice Bordin’s Analysis: Justice Bordin’s judgment centered around the contractual terms and their interpretation. The court closely examined the employment contract, considering the principles of contractual interpretation as outlined in legal precedents like Amberber v. IBM Canada Ltd. and Prism Resources Inc. v. Detour Gold Corporation. A critical aspect was determining the intention behind the clause related to share ownership and annual payments.

Decision on Wrongful Dismissal: Justice Bordin concluded that the Plaintiff was wrongfully dismissed without cause and was therefore entitled to compensation for the reasonable notice period he should have received. The judgment took into account several factors, including the character of the Plaintiff’s employment, his length of service, age, and the availability of similar employment.

Calculation of Damages: The damages were calculated based on the Plaintiff’s salary, benefits, and car allowance for the notice period deemed reasonable by the court. However, the Plaintiff’s claim for the annual payment and shares in the company were not upheld, as he had not completed the required term of employment to be eligible for these benefits.

Legal Takeaways

Interpretation of Contractual Terms: This case highlights the importance of clear language in employment contracts. Ambiguities in contract terms, especially around compensation and benefits, can lead to complex legal disputes.

Wrongful Dismissal and Notice Period: Employers must be cautious when terminating an employee without cause. The law requires that reasonable notice or compensation in lieu be provided, based on various factors like the length of service and the employee’s age.
Role of Contractual Clauses: Unique contractual clauses, such as those related to share ownership or special payments, must be drafted with precision to ensure their enforceability and to avoid misinterpretation.

Damages for Wrongful Dismissal: The court’s approach to calculating damages in wrongful dismissal cases seeks to place the employee in the financial position they would have been in had proper notice been given. This includes consideration of all aspects of compensation.
The Importance of Legal Representation: Both employers and employees can benefit from legal advice when drafting and interpreting employment contracts. This case illustrates the complexities involved in contractual disputes and the value of expert guidance in navigating these issues.


This decision is a compelling case that sheds light on several crucial aspects of employment law, including contract interpretation, wrongful dismissal, and the calculation of damages. For both employers and employees, understanding these legal nuances is vital in ensuring that employment contracts are fair, clear, and enforceable. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of seeking legal counsel in employment matters to safeguard one’s rights and interests.

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