June 25, 2014
Niranjan Kotecha (the “Employee”) worked for Affinia Canada ULC (the “Employer”), a car manufacturer, as a machine operator for 20 years. The Employee was terminated at age 70 without cause, and the primary issue at a summary judgment motion was the length of the reasonable notice period. The motion judge granted the Employee 22 months of reasonable notice, in addition to the 11 weeks of working notice he had already received, for a total of 24.5 months.
The Employer appealed the motion judge’s decision, arguing that he erred in disregarding an earlier decision against the same employer which he was bound to follow under the doctrine of “stare decisis.” The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, clarifying that courts are required to render decisions consistent with previous decisions of higher courts; and that other decisions of the same court are persuasive, but not binding. The case against the same employer involved an employee who had worked for the Employer for 16 years, and was eight years younger than the Employee in this case.
The Court of Appeal underscored that the determination of a reasonable notice period is fact-specific, and dependent upon an assessment of the character of the employment, the length of service, the age of the employee, and the availability of other similar employment. Balancing the factors in this case, the Court held that the 24.5 months of reasonable notice was excessive, with no exceptional circumstances to support such an award. Having regard to two other cases, including the earlier case against the Employer, the Court of Appeal reduced the notice period to 18 months including working notice.
This decision presents a rare intervention by an appellate court to overturn a discretionary order of the lower courts over determination of a reasonable notice period, and a stark reduction for an elderly employee with twenty years’ service.
Kotecha v. Affinia Canada ULC, 2014 ONCA 411