Employer failed to provide advice on entitlement to benefits

Larsen v. Thames Valley District School Board (2002), 17 C.C.E.L. (3d) 41 (Ont. Div. Ct.)

An employer’s failure to provide an employee with advice regarding continuation of benefits within a reasonable period of time can result in a finding of negligence against the employer. In this case, the Ontario Divisional Court upheld a small-claims court judgment which found the plaintiff did have a cause of action based on the employer’s negligence in not providing advice regarding the employee’s entitlement to benefits upon her termination.

After an 11-year period of employment, the plaintiff sought workers’ compensation, a lightening of her duties and, subsequently, a leave of absence due to physical difficulties she had developed. Eventually, the plaintiff resigned although she later withdrew her resignation and retired instead. In light of her circumstances, the plaintiff went to the HR department in order to get information on continuing her benefits. The employer expressed confidence in providing her with a solution to the problem but no solution was arrived at on a timely basis.

As a result of the employer’s failure to provide the required information, she encountered significant difficulties with her T4 income tax slips, vacation pay and sick leave entitlement. It ultimately reached the point where she could not afford to maintain the benefit package.

The small claims court held that the employer had breached its duty of care by failing to provide advice which the defendant was obviously relying upon. It awarded damages in the amount of $3,500 and costs of $300. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found no reason to disturb the judgment and dismissed the appeal.

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