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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Our lawyers take great pride in the quality legal advice and representation they provide. Here we have answered some common questions we receive from our clients. If you have any additional questions reach out to us or schedule a no-obligation consultation.
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Do I really need to have annual minutes?

I have a corporation the shares of which are held only by me and members of my immediate family. Do I really need to have annual minutes?

If your corporation is audited by the CRA and matters, such as the declaration of dividends, have not been formally documented by a written resolution of the directors or in annual minutes, the consequence can be severe. There are other risks that may be avoided by having minutes prepared annually. This is analogous to your dentist who encourages you to have good dental hygiene and periodic check-ups so that small problems do not become big problems. Practicing good corporate hygiene just makes good sense.

The minimum legal obligation of a corporation is to hold an annual meeting of shareholders to consider the financial statements, elect directors and to appoint (or dispense with the appointment of) the auditor. In practice, and as permitted by statute, narrowly held corporations often dispense with an annual meeting in favor of signed resolution of all of the shareholders. The failure to hold annual resolutions, or obtain written resolutions in lieu, can lead to legal action from disgruntled shareholders.

The practice of holding annual meetings (or resolutions in lieu) also tends to ensure that corporate matters requiring attention are addressed, such as share transfers, changes to directors, and address changes, which if left unaddressed could become significant problems.

An effective method of ensuring good “corporate hygiene” is for the corporation to instruct its accounting advisors to provide legal counsel with an annual letter of instructions to document applicable financial matters.

It is not uncommon that a new client brings us a minute book that has not been properly organized, or that has not been updated for many years. It is not a cause for embarrassment. We strongly encourage that the minute books be updated before an issue arises, such as a CRA audit.

How do partnerships work and how are they setup?

My friend and I have an idea for a business and we are considering forming a partnership. How does a partnership work and how should one be setup?

Whether or not a partnership exists is a fundamentally a legal question. Ontario’s Partnerships Act says that a relationship between “persons carrying on a business in common with a view to profit” is a partnership within the meaning of the Act. This is important because it means that whether or not you declare yourself to be a partnership, legally speaking, you might be a partnership anyways, whether you intended to or not.

A partnership can exist between you and your friend personally, or even as between two corporations controlled by each of you. Unlike a corporation, however, a partnership has no separate legal existence from the partners themselves and each partner has the power to bind the partnership and each partner is jointly liable for any obligations incurred on behalf of the firm. This is why, when deciding to form a partnership, a partnership agreement can be very practical.

A partnership agreement sets out the rights and obligations for partners in the partnership and provides for what should happen in circumstances of partnership incapacity, retirement or death. Without one, the Partnerships Act will provide for what happens to the partnership in these circumstances, often with unintended results. A partnership agreement can also provide mechanisms for the distribution of partnership income and a process for bringing additional persons into the partnership. Creating a partnership agreement that meets your goals with the help of a commercial Lawyer ensures that your partnership will continue in a manner of your design.

Should a lawyer review your small business contracts?

I run a small business and I have several small contracts that I am currently in the process of negotiating. Are these worth bringing to a Lawyer for review?

Depending on the type of contract, there are a number of areas a Lawyer’s expertise can provide guidance, including contracts relating to employment or contractor relationships, borrowing and secured transactions, equipment leases, and other commercial agreements. Simply because a document is short, this does not mean there aren’t important clauses or terms that require careful consideration.

Contracts often contain important clauses relating to the limitation of liability, indemnification, and the waiver of important legal rights. Such clauses can have legal and financial implications for you or your business down the road. Understanding these implications is crucial and one of the services a Lawyer can provide.

A Lawyer can meet with you for a short consultation in order to review your contractual document and answer any questions you might have. By communicating to the Lawyer your expectations of the proposed contract, a Lawyer can work with you to achieve your goals as well as highlight and help you understand risks and liabilities that you or your business may be taking on as part of the contract.

If you have some questions about a contract and feel you may benefit from meeting with a Lawyer call and ask to set up a meeting.

What is a condominium status certificate and why would you need one?

Status Certificate

Section 76 of the Ontario Condominium Act (the “Act”) provides for what is called a “Status Certificate”. Every condo purchase should be contingent upon review of the Status Certificate and a condominium corporation must provide a status certificate for a condominium unit upon request. The Status Certificate is used to learn all about the condominium corporation and provide the buyer with much of the documentation required for review. The Act sets out what must be contained in all Status Certificates, some of which includes:

  • Disclosure of all outstanding judgments against the corporation and the status of any legal proceedings to which the condominium corporation is a party;
  • A statement of any upcoming major repairs;
  • A statement of the common expenses for the unit and any default on the payment of those expenses;
  • A copy of the current budget of the corporation; and
  • A statement about the most recent reserve fund study and the amount in the reserve fund. (The reserve fund is used for performing major repairs of the common elements of the condo corporation.)


Attached to the Status Certificate are the rules and regulations of the condominium used for governing common elements such as hallways, lobbies and balconies. A real estate Lawyer can review these rules and explain them so that you understand what your rights and obligations are as condo owners.


Remember that according to the Act, the condo corporation may charge a prescribed fee for providing you with the Status Certificate

How do we protect our excess cash in our business for retirement?

My husband and I are the sole shareholders and directors of an incorporated retail business. We have been quite successful and are generating cash excess to business requirements. We do not want to pay the cash out to ourselves now, and pay high rates of tax, but at the same time this cash is a significant part of a retirement fund. We have no creditors, other than trade creditors payable in the ordinary course. How do we protect this cash for our retirement?

You are asking a good question. In the event of an unexpected economic downturn or legal claim against your active business corporation, the excess cash generated in the business could be exposed to potential creditors. Once the liability is crystalized, it may be too late to take action that will protect the cash. You have also correctly identified that the simplest solution –payment of the cash out to yourselves – attracts undesirable tax consequences.

A cost efficient solution is the creation of a holding corporation. The holding corporation structure, when designed properly, allows excess money from your active business corporation to be paid by dividend to the holding corporation, tax free. The holding corporation is a separate legal entity, and is generally insulated from claims against your active business corporation.

Care is required that the desired tax treatment is achieved in the structuring of the holding corporation. There are other financial planning considerations, such as ensuring the availability of the lifetime capital gains exemption, which must be addressed by the new structure. This type of corporate structuring may also be implemented as part of a broader strategy for business succession and included as part of your estate planning.

Are there any tax incentives for first time home buyers?

As a first time home buyer you may be eligible to receive a partial refund of the Ontario Land Transfer Tax which is charged on real estate purchases. The First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit and the Home Buyers’ Plan are federal programs that provide assistance.

Land Transfer Tax (LTT)

The Land Transfer Tax is paid to Ontario government whenever there is a registered change of ownership of real property. While there are certain exceptions, the land transfer tax is generally payable whenever someone purchases a residential home. The amount of the LTT depends on the purchase price and the current tax rate rises progressively from 0.5% on the first $55,000 of the purchase price to 2% of the amount of purchase price which exceeds $400,000.First time home buyers get a LTT refund up to a maximum of $2,000. To qualify for this refund, you must not have owned a home anywhere in the world in the past and you must use your new home as your primary residence within nine months of the purchase. If you are buying a home together with someone that is not a first time home buyer, you can still receive half of the refund.

First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC)

The First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit is available for the taxation year in which a first home is purchased. The value of this tax credit is $5,000. It can lower a person’s income tax by up to $750.

Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP)

Home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 from an RRSP if the funds are used towards the purchase of their home. Although there are no immediate tax consequences at the time of withdrawal, the full amount must be repaid to the RRSP within 15 years. To qualify, the Purchaser must not have owned a home in the preceding four years.

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Are employment contracts necessary?

Are employment contracts really necessary? Here are the Reasonable Notice and Bonus Requirements.

I’m always surprised to see how many employers still adopt the “handshake” method when hiring employees. I can understand the temptation to be nostalgic, but these types of employment agreements can leave employers at loss. Especially when the employment relationship ends. Here are some things every employer should consider:

Reasonable Notice

Facts: The employee has worked for you for 7 years. You want to go a different way and he/she’s not part of the picture, so you let him/her go without cause. The law states you must provide either reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice. How long will this notice be? It depends on whether you have a contract in place.  

Contract: Employment contracts I draft or review for my clients will typically include termination provisions. The provisions set out what will happen when the employment is finished; amongst other things, the notice period that should be provided. Typically the provision will limit notice to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) minimum notice requirements. The ESA sets out the following parameters, depending on years of service:

Employer Notice Period

57 The notice of termination under section 54 shall be given,

(a) at least one week before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is less than one year;

(b) at least two weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is one year or more and fewer than three years;

(c) at least three weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is three years or more and fewer than four years;

(d) at least four weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is four years or more and fewer than five years;

(e) at least five weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is five years or more and fewer than six years;

(f) at least six weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is six years or more and fewer than seven years;

(g) at least seven weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is seven years or more and fewer than eight years; or

(h) at least eight weeks before the termination, if the employee’s period of employment is eight years or more.  2000, c. 41, s. 57.

So, if drafted properly in the contract, the employee in the above example would have a right to 7 weeks notice.

No Contract

If there is no contract in place, the employee is allowed “common law” reasonable notice. Bardal v. Globe & Mail Ltd set the precedent for all wrongful termination cases treating reasonable notice requirements. Although less than 8 pages long, the decision set out what factors should be considered when deciding how much notice an employee should get. It is typically a lot more then what an employee would get under the ESA minimums. Employment adjudicators have added to the Bardal factors and although not exhaustive, the typical considerations are as follows:

  1. the type or characterization of employment, for example, was it a contract position or permanent full-time position?
  2. the age of the employee at the time of the termination;
  3. the length of service that the employee provided to the employer;
  4. previous employment history and luring, if applicable;
  5. the experience and skill set of the employee at the time of the termination and whether this experience and skill set is transferable to reasonable alternative employment;
  6. the employee’s salary at the time of the termination;
  7. the current job market and the availability of reasonable alternative employment;
  8. whether the employee was in a position of management or upper management;
  9. does the employee have a health concern or disability that may impair securing alternative employment?
  10. the manner of the termination; and
  11. is this a single termination or a mass lay-off of 50+ employees?

Although not set in stone, adjudicators tend to adopt a month per year of service approach to notice. Cases will typically end up in that range and, depending on the factors above, there may be additional months added or reduced.

Taking the above example, that employee could expect something in the range of 7 months notice. The difference is significant. Let’s say the set income allowed the employee a weekly notice value of $1,000 (net). The ESA minimum would be $7,000. Common law notice would be in the range of $28,000.

As always, every case may be different. This is not an exact science and this example is a very simple version of what might occur. It does, however, stress the importance of having a contract in place that sets out the parties’ rights and obligations on termination.


Dealing again in termination, one provision that employers often miss is the right to bonus payment during the reasonable notice period. If a contract properly states that the bonus will not be paid for the period of reasonable notice, then the employee will not get paid a bonus after the termination date. If the contract doesn’t mention it, then the yearly bonus is deemed to apply throughout the entire notice period.

This applies to both discretionary and non-discretionary bonuses; that being said, there is some wiggle room on the discretionary bonus. For instance, in Fraser v. Canerector Inc., the employer successfully argued that the employee’s performance in the year pre-dating the termination did not merit the discretionary bonus.

Where the employee bonus is not discretionary, it must be expressly stated in the contract that the bonus will not be paid during the reasonable notice period. The concept was discussed in Paquette v. TeraGo Networks Inc. . In that case, the Court set out a two-part test for determining whether an employee is entitled to compensatory damages for the loss of a bonus:

  1. Was the bonus an integral part of the employee’s compensation package, thereby triggering a common law entitlement to damages in lieu of bonus?
  2. If so, is there any language in the bonus plan that would restrict the employee’s common law entitlement to damages in lieu of a bonus over the reasonable notice period?

It was recently applied in Singer v. Nordstrong Equipment Ltd.. In that case, the employee knew that the employer’s practice was not to pay out bonus entitlement during the reasonable notice period. Despite his knowledge of this fact, he was still awarded a quantified bonus. The Ontario Court of Appeal emphasised that the company did not limit the bonus payment in writing within the employees’ contract and that it needed to do so in order to refute any common law right that employee had to his bonus entitlement.

The Takeaway: Contracts are good for both employers and employees alike. They set out the parameters of the employment relationship and, if worded properly, can act as a strong dispute resolution tool. Clarity in the employment relationship is a crucial component of any healthy work environment. Drafting appropriate contracts to each employee is the best thing an employer can do to reduce overall costs and the potential for litigation.

Do you need an Employment Lawyer? Speak to one of our professionals and get the help you need.

Fired without Cause - Should you take the offer?

I was fired without cause. My employer has given me an offer. Should I take it?

Answer: Employers aren’t handcuffed to their employees. If they act in accordance with their statutory and common law obligations, employers are free to part ways with employees without cause. Typically, the employer is obliged to provide statutory or common law reasonable notice or payment in lieu of notice.  Costs, benefits, risks and reward of bringing legal action, should all be considered, prior to starting a claim.

Needlessly pursuing litigation could potentially prejudice the employee. You could delay the settlement and run the risk of losing a fair offer. You may find another job in the weeks following termination. If this happens, then the employer’s settlement may be subject to mitigation which means that they are credited the wages you obtain from that new job. You may also pay more in legal fees then the additional notice you should have received.

There are cases where employees are grossly underpaid when it comes to severance, so I do advocate that everyone who faces termination seek counsel to go over any severance offer. Do not sign it blindly. Speak to a Lawyer and make sure the offer is fair. Employers will often expect and, if prudent, will insist that their past employees reach out to counsel when deciding to sign a severance offer. You should do so as soon as possible after receiving the offer.


Need an Employment Lawyer? Reach out today. You may be eligible for a FREE no obligation consultation.

Short-Term Disability Insurance: What should you do when a claim is denied?

I have been off work since May 2016 and have been trying to obtain short-term disability insurance since then. My doctor has provided me with three sick notes since then and at our last appointment she told me not to work. However, my application for short-term disability insurance has been denied. I’ve given the disability insurer the notes from my doctor and I’ve gone through the appeal process but have been denied again. My employer is now asking when I will return and I’ve booked an appointment with my doctor to see what she thinks. What should I do?

It is not uncommon for disability insurers to deny an initial application for short-term disability benefits. Often the reason cited for the denial is a lack of medical evidence of a disability. If the only documentation you have provided to the insurer are sick notes from your doctor it is usually of assistance to obtain further medical records from your doctor including something documenting your diagnosis. Often, after receiving such additional documentation an insurer will approve an application for disability benefits. If you continue to be denied benefits, it is likely time to consult with legal counsel. Also short-term disability benefits typically end within 6 months even if you are approved. Ensure you know when these benefits end and decide with your doctor whether you should be applying for long-term disability benefits if they are available to you.

With respect to returning to work you are entitled to rely on your doctor’s advice. If your doctor tells you not to work this should be documented in a doctor’s note and provided to your employer. Forcing you to return to work when your doctor says you’re sick is in breach of human rights legislation and it’s unlikely that your employer will insist on your return to work in the face of your doctor’s advice.

Are temporary layoffs permitted?

Work at my business has slowed down quite a bit this year. I currently have 11 employees but there is not enough work to go around. I should be getting a set of new contracts that will keep everyone busy this spring, but I’d like to make some temporary layoffs in the meantime to avoid having to let anyone go for good. I’ve discussed this with business colleagues who told me that temporary layoffs are not permitted for non-unionized employees. What are my options?

The law applicable to temporary layoffs in Ontario can be confusing. The Employment Standards Act does allow temporary layoffs of up to 13 weeks in a 20 week period. In certain seasonal industries, such as construction, temporary layoffs over the winter months are fairly common. However, in other workplaces courts in Ontario have treated temporary layoffs as constructive dismissals and have ordered employers to provide termination and severance pay.

In recent years, some Ontario court decisions have allowed temporary layoffs provided employers comply with both the Employment Standards Act and the terms of the employee’s contract. Depending on the nature of the work, such layoffs may even be permitted when an employee is working with an unwritten contract. A temporary layoff is also more likely to be permitted if an employee remains entitled to benefits and can access Employment Insurance during their time off. During any such layoff it is important to inform the employee that the layoff is temporary and to provide them with a return to work date. Finally, a temporary layoff should not be used as a form of discipline to punish an employee for misconduct – that will most certainly result in a claim for constructive dismissal.

Are managers and supervisors ineligible for overtime pay?

I recently changed roles at work. My new title is “Accounts Manager” and I am responsible for all the company’s accounts payable and receivable. I also help other staff price our products and develop new accounts. I am very happy about my new role but my job used to be “9 to 5” and now I have to work late and on weekends. I asked my boss about overtime but was informed that managers and supervisors do not receive overtime pay. Is this true?

For most employees in Ontario overtime hours start after 44 hours of work in a week. For every hour worked in excess of 44 hours an employee is supposed to receive time and a half.

Under the Employment Standards Act there are exceptions to the general rule including that managers and supervisors do not receive any overtime compensation. For this “manager exception” to apply, an employee generally needs to be performing work that involves the supervision of other employees in a leadership role as opposed working in general administrative duties. Also, the exempt employee must be working in the manager role the majority of the time while at work - not just every now and then. The fact that someone’s job title includes the word “manager” or “supervisor” does not determine their entitlement to overtime pay. Rather, it depends on what the actual duties of the employee are.

Although many job titles, such Accounts Manager, include the word “manager” this does not necessarily mean you don’t get overtime pay. If your job does not involve supervising other employees this is a good indication that you may be entitled to overtime compensation. For more information you can seek legal counsel or examine the Ministry of Labour’s website at

Are paid and unpaid internships illegal in Ontario?

I own a small events and promotions business. Every so often I get emails from students asking if they could volunteer to learn about the business. I’ve never hired a student because they’re inexperienced but I’m considering hiring one as an intern this summer. I don’t have the budget for a full time employee but I would be willing to pay them a modest stipend. I’ve heard both paid and unpaid internships are illegal in Ontario. Is this true?

In Ontario, the rules around internships are strict and in recent years some employers have been required to change their internship programs as a result. If someone is receiving on the job training from a business they are considered to be an employee of the business under Ontario law. As an employee they are entitled to a minimum wage under the Employment Standards Act so paying them a stipend that does not meet the minimum wage is against the law.

There are two exceptions to this general rule which recognize the educational value of internships. The first is internship programs approved by a college or university which are permitted.

The second exception is internships that meet criteria set by the Ministry of Labour. These requirements include that the intern is receiving valuable training, is not taking someone else’s job, and has not been promised a job after their training. The most important feature is the educational component: the primary purpose of internships is to teach valuable skills, not to provide cheap labour to businesses.

The safest way to ensure compliance with the law is to have an internship approved as part of a college or university program. Alternatively, you should design the internship ahead of time to focus it around training and skills development.

Workplace Travel: Must I go if I'm worried about my safety?

My employer has again asked that I work in a foreign country. I am concerned that this posting is unsafe. Last time I worked abroad multiple bombings took place and several governments closed their embassies. I also had my personal belongings stolen while I was in what was supposed to be a secure area. Do I have to go work in this country? If I do is my employer required to provide travel insurance in case something goes wrong?

The first thing to look at is your employment contract. Most employment contracts contain both written terms, and unwritten terms that are implied into the contract by law. The written portion of an employment contract usually mentions the benefits and insurance coverage that an employer is required to provide and it may also mention work locations and travel.

Unless travel insurance is covered in the original contract, or has since been agreed to by the employer, an employer generally cannot be forced to provide travel insurance. Also, most travel insurance policies will not cover all of the risks you’ve outlined. However, the failure to mention travel or relocation in a contract may prevent an employer from requiring that an employee work in a foreign country. Whether an employer can make such a request, without it being specifically mentioned in the contract, depends primarily on the nature of the work and if foreign travel to that country was expected or foreseeable when the employee was hired or promoted into their current position.

If an employee has a legitimate fear for their safety they may be able to argue that a travel request from their employer is not consistent with their contract. The context of the employment and the country involved are important considerations. For example it could be implied into many contracts that travel to the United States is acceptable, whereas travel to parts of Afghanistan is not. It is always best to review your contract, check your facts, and consult with a Lawyer before making any demands of your employer.

What is fiduciary breach anyway?

You may have heard the term "Fiduciary" or "Fiduciary Duty" used with respect to legal claims.  A fiduciary is an individual who acts on behalf of another, whom we may refer to as a beneficiary.  The relationship  is characterized by the beneficiary being vulnerable to the fiduciary and reposing in her or him trust.  As a result a  fiduciary is  charged with obligations of utmost good faith, prudence, and trust.  

These obligations manifest requirements which include the fiduciary's  duty to place the interest of  beneficiaries ahead of their own, avoid conflicts of interest, disclose profits made arising from their fiduciary position, and to exercise prudence in carrying out the responsibilities of their office.  Common examples of fiduciaries are Parents, Trustees, Directors of  corporations, and in certain cases Financial Advisors.

When a fiduciary breaches one or more of these obligations there may be an action for breach of a fiduciary duty.  A good example of facts giving rise to such a circumstance are discussed in the following article:

In this case an accountant was held to account for a breach of fiduciary duty.  Part of the compensation he was ordered to pay arose from an order for disgorgement of profits (a commission) which he did the work to earn, but failed to advise the beneficiary of  in advance of collecting.

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