Ontario Court Awards Highest Ever Compensation To “Independent Contractor” Couple
Highest compensation award for an employment case in Ontario.
“The notion, held by some in the business community, that individuals working under similar arrangements can be deprived of fair entitlements upon termination is an urban legend.”
Lawrence and Marilyn Keenan worked as Installation Foremen for Canac Kitchens Ltd. (a division of the US based company, Kohler Ltd.) for over 28 years. They began as employees and in 1987, at the company’s insistence, the Keenan’s set up a sub-contractor business known as “Keenan Cabinetry” which effectively performed the same job.
When Canac moved its Canadian manufacturing to North Carolina and subsequently shut down that operation in 2009, the Keenan’s were told that they no longer had any work. The company refused to pay severance to the Keenan’s, saying that since they operated as “independent contractors” and not as employees, they were not entitled to any compensation. To add insult to injury, Canac’s management suggested that Mrs. Keenan merely assisted her husband with the “bookkeeping” and had no status with them at all.
In fact, Marilyn (61), worked side-by-side with her husband, Lawrence (63), tools in hand, toiling 12-14 hour workdays and then going home to do the paperwork at the kitchen table. “Working together was the only way that I got to see my husband,” said Marilyn.
In a Judgment released Friday, February 13th 2015, an Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that the Keenans’ relationship with Canac was permanent, mostly exclusive and economically dependent. In this precedent setting decision, the Keenan’s were jointly awarded the highest ever total of 26 months of their previous income and $70,000.00 in legal costs as a result of the wrongful termination.
“In Canada, dependent contractors are entitled to the same rights to compensation as employees when they are unjustly terminated,” said the Keenans’ lawyer, Bram A. Lecker, principal of Lecker & Associates, a Toronto law firm specializing in employment litigation. According to Mr. Lecker, “The notion, held by some in the business community, that individuals working under similar arrangements can be deprived of fair entitlements upon termination is an urban legend.”
MARILYN KEENAN et. al. v. CANAC KITCHENS et. al.,
Ontario Superior Court of Justice,
Court File # CV-11-42014
- Contact Information
- Matthew A. Fisher
- Employment Lawyer
- Lecker & Associates
- (1) (416)-223-5391
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