Can boss create just cause with warnings?

QUESTION:  After ten years of good results and positive performance appraisals in my sales position, six months ago I got a new boss. Suddenly, I am chopped liver. I have been put on a performance improvement plan. I have been called into monthly meetings with my boss for the last four months. During the last two meetings I have been handed pieces of paper warning me that if my sales don’t improve I will be terminated. They have done a good job with the paperwork. If I get terminated, are they going to be able to say there was just cause and pay me nothing because of all the warnings?
ANSWER:  They can say it but it won’t be true. For some reason I see this phenomenon most often in large department stores that think they can terminate cosmetic counter sales representatives without notice if they don’t meet their quota. But they are not the only offenders.
After ten years of loyal service, the only way you are going to end up on the street without a package is if you kill somebody, steal something or are willfully disobedient. With respect to willful disobedience, you would have to do it more than once and receive clear warnings. I will admit that the above is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
The point I am trying to drive home is just because there is lots of paperwork, it does not mean that you can be terminated without a package.
People make the mistaken assumption that large employers must know their business. It is appalling how often they do not.
Do your best to not let this get to you. I know that you have gotten where you are by caring and trying hard for a decade. Try to do your best but try to also disengage yourself. Keep reminding yourself that all you can do is your best and that despite what they say, if they want you gone they are going to have to pay you.
As published in the Hamilton Spectator, November 30, 2009
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809