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termination (or pay in lieu of the notice). Employers who find they have just cause for terminating the employee (e.g., the employer catches the employee stealing from the company) do not have to provide notice to terminate the employee. We will examine this issue further in Unit 7.oA safe worksite:Under the common law, employers are required to provide a reasonably safe system of work. This obligation has generally been usurped by occupational health and safety regulationsand workers’ compensation legislation (England, 2008).Employers are also vicariously liable for their employees’ actions. That means that the employer is responsible for negligent acts or omissions by employees when employees are carrying out job-related duties. This reflects the fact that the employer has the right, ability, and duty to control the employee in the execution of the employee’s job.Common Law Obligations: EmployeesEmployees’ common law obligations include the following:oObligations of good faith and fidelity:An employee must act in a manner that is consistent with advancing the employer’s business interests. For example, an employee cannot normally operate a business on the side that competes with the employee’s employer, nor can an employee behave in a way that undermines the fundamental trust relationship that exists—for example, by stealing from the employer.oThe duty to obey:Once employed, the employee is the employer’sto command. While there are common law and statutory limits on what an employer can demand of an employee, generally speaking, the employee must obey lawful commands of the employer in the workplace context.oThe obligation to perform work competently:An employee must normally be able to competently perform the duties assigned bythe employer. Gross incompetence or repeated failure to perform work in a satisfactory manner will void the employment contract.
oThe requirement to provide resignation notice:Employees arerequired to provide the employer with notice of their intent to terminate the employment contract. This is rarely an issue in most terminations, in part because an employer is often hard pressed to quantify the cost of a sudden termination, and the cost of suing an employee for failing to provide notice may outweigh the cost of the termination. The employer may also simply be happy to be rid of the employee (England, 2008).Even a cursory glance at these rights and obligations suggests that they are asymmetrical. An employer’s obligations are significantly lessexpansive than an employee’s, focusing largely on an exchange of money for work in pursuit of the employer’s interests. Employees see their own interests (even off hours) being supplanted by the employer’s interests.This legal asymmetry reinforces the labour market power that employers wield over employees. That is, workers must take a job to avoid starving, and employers can use the usual surplus of workers to drive a hard bargain. On top of that, when workers take a job, they must legally subordinate themselves to the employer.