Even if you are happy with your current job, a day might come where you must choose between the job you have and a job being offered to you. This is already a difficult decision to make. It can become more difficult when you begin to wonder what your current employer might do if they found out. You might wonder whether or not they could fire you for receiving the job offer. Can they fire you? Below, that question will be answered.
The Short Answer
Yes, they could fire you. But this is no surprise! As long as you are not unionized, your employer can terminate you for any reason and at any time. But if they do choose to terminate your employment, you will be entitled to either a reasonable notice of termination period or to payment in lieu of notice, provided that you are not being terminated for “cause”.
The question, therefore, is not whether you can be terminated for receiving a job offer – the answer to that is yes. Rather, the real question is whether or not receiving a job offer enables your employer to terminate you for cause, thus stripping you of your entitlement to reasonable notice or pay in lieu.
Note that if you are a member of a union, your collective agreement will generally specify that you cannot be terminated without just cause. Therefore, it would be essential for your employer to prove they had just cause if they wished to fire you as a result of this job offer.
Does Receiving a Job Offer Constitute Just Cause?
Employers have the right to summarily dismiss an employee where the employer has “just cause” for doing so. In this case, they are not required to provide the employee with reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice.
The grounds upon which just cause can be established are well founded. They include such grounds as insubordination, incompetence, insolence, absenteeism, negligence, neglect of duty, dishonesty, criminal activity and violence, among others. Notably, receiving an offer for alternative employment is not included. This does not constitute just cause. So, although your employer can certainly fire you for it (as they can for just about any other reason), they must provide you with reasonable notice or pay in lieu.
Competing with an Employer?
Interestingly, one ground for summary dismissal is competing with your employer during the course of the employment relationship. One might argue that receiving an offer to work elsewhere constitutes such competition, especially where the potential new employer is a direct competitor of your current employer. The reason such competition amounts to just cause is due to the implied obligation of employees not to compete with their employer or to assist a competitor during the employment relationship. This is a component of the employee’s general duty of good faith and fidelity. But, it must be emphasized that this obligation applies during the employment relationship. If all you’ve done is receive a job offer, you cannot truly be said to be competing with your employer during the employment relationship unless you accept the job offer and actually commence working with the competitor. As long as you do not do that, it is very unlikely your current employer could argue that they have terminated you for cause.
So, rest assured – receiving a new job offer will not give your employer grounds to terminate you summarily.