Home Opinion/Commentary 5 landmark employment law cases decided by the Supreme Court of Canada

5 landmark employment law cases decided by the Supreme Court of Canada

by HR Law Canada

As the landscape of employment and labour law continues to evolve, it is essential to stay informed about significant legal decisions that shape the rights and obligations of both employers and employees.

The Supreme Court of Canada, as the country’s highest judicial body, has issued several landmark rulings that have had a profound impact on the field of employment law.

In this blog post, we will explore five notable decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada that have shaped the employment and labour law landscape in the country.

Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (2016): In this case, the Supreme Court clarified the protection against unjust dismissal for federally regulated employees. The court ruled that non-unionized employees who believe they were terminated without just cause can seek reinstatement. This decision significantly expanded the rights of federally regulated employees, providing them with enhanced job security and protection against arbitrary terminations.

Honda Canada Inc. v. Keays (2008): The Keays decision addressed the issue of damages for bad faith in employment relationships. The Supreme Court emphasized that damages should be awarded to compensate employees for the harm suffered as a result of an employer’s bad faith conduct. This ruling established a higher threshold for employers to meet in order to justify punitive damages and reinforced the importance of fair treatment and good faith in employment relationships.

McCormick v. Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP (2014): In this case, the Supreme Court tackled the issue of discrimination based on family status. The court broadened the definition of family status and held that employers have a duty to accommodate the childcare needs of their employees to the point of undue hardship. This decision affirmed the importance of maintaining a work-life balance and highlighted the obligation of employers to accommodate family responsibilities.

Hydro-Québec v. Syndicat des employé-e-s de techniques professionnelles et de bureau d’Hydro-Québec, section locale 2000 (2008): This landmark ruling addressed the balancing of privacy rights in the workplace. The Supreme Court held that employers cannot unilaterally introduce random drug and alcohol testing without a demonstrated safety concern. This decision emphasized the need for employers to respect employee privacy and upheld the principle that workplace policies must be reasonable, proportional, and based on legitimate business interests.

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v. Irving Pulp & Paper, Ltd. (2013): The Irving decision dealt with the issue of alcohol and drug testing in safety-sensitive workplaces. The Supreme Court held that employers have the right to implement mandatory random alcohol and drug testing for employees in safety-sensitive positions, provided that there is a genuine safety concern. This ruling clarified the circumstances under which drug and alcohol testing can be justified, striking a balance between employee privacy and workplace safety.


The Supreme Court of Canada plays a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape surrounding employment and labour law.

The five landmark decisions discussed in this blog post highlight the evolving nature of employee rights, workplace obligations, and the need for fairness and balance in employment relationships.

Staying informed about these notable rulings helps both employers and employees navigate the complexities of employment law and promotes a harmonious and equitable work environment.

It is always advisable to consult legal professionals for expert guidance and interpretation of the law based on specific circumstances.

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