Dalhousie Law Journal


Supreme Court of Canada, employment, wrongful dismissal, employee protection, jurisprudence, employer freedom, common law, policy, wages


This article critically examines the Supreme Court of Canada's treatment of the contract of employment in its wrongful dismissal jurisprudence over the last 25 years, with the aim of challenging the view that only by exempting the contract of employment from the ordinary workings of contract doctrine or by resorting to public policy considerations can the common law of dismissal provide adequate protection for employees. The Court's jurisprudence reveals a commitment to what this paper calls the presumption of employer freedom, a view of the contract of employment which has its origins in the status-based master and servant relationship and which continues to permeate the common law of wrongful dismissal. This paper offers a more straightforwardly contract-based account of these same entitlements, grounding them not in policybut instead in the work-forwages exchange at the core of the contract of employment.