Matthews v. Ocean Diet: Supreme Courtroom Awards Bonus To Dismissed Worker – Employment and HR – Canada

Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition: Supreme Court Awards Bonus To Dismissed Employee  - Employment and HR - Canada

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The Supreme Courtroom of Canada lately rendered its determination in
Matthews v Ocean Diet Canada Restricted
(“Matthews”), a case which thought of whether or not a dismissed
worker was entitled to a fee beneath a Lengthy Time period Incentive Plan
(“LTIP”), regardless of not being employed.

The Matthews determination confirms a two-step method established
by decrease courts to find out if an worker is entitled to be paid
a bonus or LTIP
regardless of not being actively employed. First, courts ought to
look at whether or not the worker would have been entitled to the bonus
in the course of the affordable discover interval however for the dismissal. Second,
courts ought to decide whether or not there’s something within the bonus
plan that may particularly take away the worker’s widespread legislation

In different phrases, if a dismissed worker would in any other case be
entitled to a bonus fee, is there clear and unambiguous
language to exclude or restrict that entitlement in the course of the widespread legislation
affordable discover interval?


Mr. Matthews was employed as a senior government by Ocean
Diet Canada Ltd. (“Ocean”) from January 1997, till
his resignation in June 2011. Due to his place, Mr. Matthews
was entitled to take part in Ocean’s LTIP, which offered for
sure funds to staff on the prevalence of a
“Realization Occasion,” such because the sale of the corporate.

In 2007, Ocean employed a brand new Chief Working Officer, who decreased
Mr. Matthew’s duties with Ocean. He additionally misled Mr.
Matthews about his standing and prospects with Ocean. Regardless of these
difficulties, Mr. Matthews continued to work for Ocean anticipating
the corporate would quickly be offered and he would obtain a fee beneath
the LTIP.

In June 2011, Mr. Matthews sought employment elsewhere and
resigned. Ocean was offered for $540 million roughly 13 months after
Mr. Matthews’ resignation, which constituted a Realization
Occasion beneath the LTIP
and triggered bonus funds to qualifying staff. Ocean took
the place that Mr. Matthews didn’t qualify for an LTIP fee
as a result of he was not an worker. The precise language of the LTIP
offered for the next:


ONC shall haven’t any obligation beneath this Settlement to the
Worker except on the date of a Realization Occasion the Worker is
a full-time worker of ONC. For better certainty, this Settlement
shall be of no power and impact if the worker ceases to be an
worker of ONC, no matter whether or not the Worker resigns or is
terminated, with or with out trigger.


The Lengthy Time period Worth Creation Bonus Plan doesn’t have any
present or future worth apart from on the date of a Realization
Occasion and shall not be calculated as a part of the Worker’s
compensation for any objective, together with in reference to the
Worker’s resignation or in any severance calculation.

Mr. Matthews filed an software towards Ocean alleging that he
had been constructively dismissed and that Ocean carried out the
constructive dismissal in unhealthy religion and in breach of its
obligations. He sought damages for pay in lieu of affordable
discover, which included a declare for the lack of a fee beneath the

Each the trial choose and the Courtroom of Enchantment discovered that Mr.
Matthews had been constructively dismissed and that the suitable
affordable discover interval at widespread legislation was 15 months. There was a
divergence on the query of whether or not Mr. Matthews was entitled to
a fee following the Realization Occasion, given the language of
the LTIP. The trial
choose discovered that damages have been owing, whereas the Courtroom of Enchantment
discovered the LTIP language sufficiently clear to oust the widespread

The Supreme Courtroom Resolution

In a unanimous determination, the Supreme Courtroom discovered that Mr.
Matthews was entitled to damages for the lack of the LTIP fee, ensuing
from the breach of his employment settlement. For Mr. Matthews this
represented almost $1.1 million.

In reaching that conclusion, the Supreme Courtroom reiterated that
it’s an implied time period of each employment settlement that an
worker receives affordable discover upon termination, except
in any other case restricted by contract. Staff dismissed with out
affordable discover are entitled to damages for the breach of this
implied time period, and people damages are “totally loaded,”
which means that they embrace all wage and advantages together with bonuses
that an worker would have earned had the worker continued to
work by way of the affordable discover interval.

The Supreme Courtroom clarified that the problem was not whether or not Mr.
Matthews was entitled to an LTIP fee, however quite if
he was entitled to damages for Ocean’s failure to supply him
with affordable discover, in breach of his employment contract.
Particularly, the Supreme Courtroom confirmed that the “objective of
damages in lieu of affordable discover is to place the worker within the
place they might have been in had they continued to work by way of
to the top of the discover interval.”

The Supreme Courtroom endorsed the method taken by the Ontario
Courtroom of Enchantment in Paquette v TeraGo Networks Inc., 2016
ONCA 618. Particularly, Courts ought to take into account the next two
questions with the intention to decide whether or not damages in lieu of discover
ought to embrace bonuses:

  1. Would the worker have been entitled
    to the bonus or profit as a part of their compensation in the course of the
    affordable discover interval?

  2. If that’s the case, do the phrases of the employment
    contract or bonus plan unambiguously take away or restrict that widespread
    legislation proper?

In making use of this framework to Mr. Matthews’ particular
scenario, the Courtroom answered the primary query within the
affirmative. If Mr. Matthews had labored by way of the 15-month
affordable discover interval, he would have been employed when the
Realization Occasion occurred and would have certified to obtain the
LTIP fee.

Concerning the second query, the Supreme Courtroom discovered that the
language of the LTIP
didn’t unambiguously restrict or take away Mr. Matthew’s widespread legislation
proper to damages. Particularly, the Courtroom raised the next
points with the exclusions of the LTIP:

  • Clause 2.03 requiring an worker to
    be “full-time” or “energetic” didn’t suffice to
    take away an worker’s widespread legislation proper to damages. If Mr.
    Matthews had been given correct discover, he would have been
    “full-time” or “actively employed” all through
    the Realization Occasion.

  • Clause 2.03 that presupposed to take away
    an worker’s widespread legislation proper to damages upon termination
    “with or with out trigger” was not sufficiently unambiguous.
    Mr. Matthews was unlawfully terminated as a result of he was
    constructively dismissed with out discover. Subsequently, the clause did
    not cowl the precise circumstances that had arisen.

  • Clause 2.05 presupposed to restrict LTIP fee in a severance
    fee, which was not ample as a result of there’s a distinction
    between severance and damages. Matthews’ entitlement to the
    LTIP fee arose due to his entitlement to damages, which was
    not particularly excluded.

  • Clause 2.05 prompt that the LTIP
    “doesn’t have any present or future worth apart from on the
    date of a Realization Occasion.” Once more, if Mr. Matthews had
    acquired correct discover of termination he would have certified on
    the date of the Realization Occasion for an LTIP fee.

Gowling WLG Focus

The Supreme Courtroom of Canada’s determination doesn’t seem to
diverge from prior instances figuring out worker entitlement to
non-discretionary incentive compensation following termination. It
stays clear that non-discretionary incentive compensation plans
require sturdy language to oust the widespread legislation presumption that
such funds apply in the course of the affordable discover interval. There may be
little question that the edge is excessive – however not insurmountable
– for employers that want to restrict their legal responsibility with
respect to post-employment incentive compensation funds. The
Supreme Courtroom has now offered an analytical framework towards
which to measure the enforceability of exclusionary clauses in any
such plan, which require very fastidiously and exactly drafted
language. Employers ought to assessment their incentive compensation
plans to make sure compliance with the Supreme Courtroom’s newest
pronouncement in Matthews.

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Initially Printed by Gowling, November 2020

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