Bardal v. Globe and Mail: Arguably the biggest case in Canadian employment law history

Employment law plays a fundamental role in defining and protecting the rights of employers and employees alike.

Over the years, many landmark rulings have shaped the landscape of this field, but few have had as profound an impact as the Bardal v. Globe and Mail case from the Ontario High Court.

This groundbreaking decision has set an important precedent for determining reasonable notice periods during employment termination.

The Case: Bardal v. Globe and Mail (1960)

In this pivotal case, Mr. Hugh Bardal was terminated from his position as Advertising Manager at The Globe and Mail. The newspaper gave him one month’s notice. However, Bardal argued that this was insufficient, given his years of service, age, position, and the likelihood of him securing a similar job. He contended that he was entitled to a more extended notice period.

Justice McRuer held that there’s no fixed formula to determine what constitutes “reasonable notice.” Instead, he stated that each case must be decided based on its own unique circumstances.

The Court set forth several factors to consider when determining the length of a reasonable notice period:

  • The nature of the employment
  • The length of service
  • The age of the employee
  • The availability of similar employment, considering the experience, training, and qualifications of the employee

Impact on Canadian Employment Law

  1. Personalized Approach to Reasonable Notice: Bardal v. Globe and Mail ushered in a shift from the previous ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to determining reasonable notice. Post-Bardal, employers had to account for individual circumstances and evaluate the factors outlined by the Court when determining notice periods.
  2. Enhanced Employee Protections: The ruling provided greater protection to employees, particularly those in more senior roles, those who had served a company for an extended period, or those who would find it challenging to secure a similar position elsewhere.
  3. Legal Predictability: Although each case is unique, the principles set forth in Bardal gave lawyers and employers a clearer framework and benchmarks when negotiating settlements or preparing for potential litigation.
  4. Influence on Subsequent Case Law: Bardal has been cited in numerous subsequent decisions as the leading authority on the topic of reasonable notice. The principles set forth have guided Canadian courts in countless employment termination cases since 1960.
  5. Increased Negotiation and Settlements: Recognizing the flexibility and the factors involved in determining reasonable notice, many employers and employees have chosen to negotiate settlements outside of court, as litigation outcomes can be unpredictable.

Conclusion

Bardal v. Globe and Mail is not just a landmark case in Canadian employment law; it represents a transformative shift in how the rights and obligations of employers and employees are viewed in the context of termination without cause. By emphasizing a case-by-case, personalized approach to determining reasonable notice, the Ontario High Court has ensured that fairness and justice remain at the forefront of employment terminations.

Author