Dismissing a remote worker remotely

What are the risks and suggestions for dismissing a remote worker without any in-person contact?

Dismissing a remote worker remotely

Question: What are the risks and suggestions for dismissing a remote worker without any in-person contact? Does it matter if it’s with or without cause?

Answer: An improper manner of dismissal can extend the length of reasonable notice where it breaches the employer’s obligation of good faith and fair dealing. Generally speaking, there is no greater risk in dismissing a remote worker without any in-person contact, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic where many workers are operating remotely and where communicating virtually is often the preferred and safest option for employers and workers alike. Outside the COVID-19 pandemic, there is nothing offside in dismissing a worker remotely where there are no existing plans to travel to the area and where communication is typically conducted remotely. Context is always important.

In today’s reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are risks both to conducting a termination remotely or in person. A dismissed employee may take umbrage with either an in-person or video conference termination. In-person may be viewed as unnecessarily risky given social distancing rules and video conferencing may be perceived as impersonal. To mitigate any risks of dismissing a worker by video conferencing or telephone, it is important to have two members of management present during the dismissal so that the conduct of the dismissal is witnessed. Although not required, employers may also wish to consider offering the worker termination support services or counselling in the context of without-cause terminations. Finally, the employer will need to consider how to retrieve its property such as keys or other equipment in the worker’s possession. It may be advisable for employers to arrange a courier to collect this property shortly after the dismissal and to communicate this to the worker before concluding the meeting.

Amy Gibson is an associate with MLT Aikins in Saskatoon, practising general labour and employment law. She can be reached at (306) 956-6994 or [email protected]

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