65 Doesn’t Always Mean Retirement

By Nicole Salemi

Vancouver lawyer John Michael McCormick had been working for Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP for 40 years when he turned 65 in 2010. He refused to retire at that time, claiming that by forcing him to retire, the firm was engaging in age discrimination. The main issue in his case was whether a partner in a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), such as a law or accounting firm, is considered an employee. If so, they would be covered by provincial human rights codes.

His firm argued that his status as a partner held too much power in his ability to vote in the firm’s board and share in their profits and losses to be considered an employee. McCormick’s lawyers argued that his work as a partner at the firm essentially made him an employee, because they controlled many aspects of his life at the firm, including clients, tools, support and compensation.

He brought his case to the British Colombia Human Rights Tribunal, who initially ruled that they had jurisdiction over this case, but the British Colombia Court of Appeal claimed that partners could not be considered employees and therefore not covered by provincial human rights codes. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with this decision, ruling that law firms and other LLPs are allowed to force partners into retirement. Further, Justice Rosalie Abella ruled that courts must look into how much power and control a partner has in his workplace to determine whether he is an employee or not, and it must be examined on a case by case basis.

Most Canadian workers do not face mandatory retirement, although this is greatly followed in LLPs. However, some law firms allow partners to continue working past retirement, referring to them as ‘counsel’. Nonetheless, it is argued that mandatory retirement in LLPs is essential for attracting new employees who will later become partners in the firm.

The outcome of this case greatly affects all types of LLPs. If the Supreme Court ruled differently, partners would be able to claim human rights cases as employees, which would open the door to many cases regarding age, gender and other types of discrimination.


Article taken from The Globe and Mail



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4 Comments on "65 Doesn’t Always Mean Retirement"

  1. See some of the conversations that have flowed from this case over on Slaw.

  2. Old buggers should be given the boot. There aren’t enough slots for young lawyers, even the rare good one. If you haven’t larded your pantry after 40-years that’s no excuse to deny the kids a shot at doing better.

  3. Jasintha Kunasegaram | June 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm |

    I really think that what John Michael McCormick has faced at his workplace, was very unfair. I am very surprised that even the Supreme Court ruled against him. This verdict had very unfair advantage over John Michael McCormick; after all it’s a partnership based business or firm in this case, he should have the right to choose when he retires. He really should not be forced to retire. I personally agree with the last part of your post, if the Supreme Court did in fact rule differently it would have been more fair.

  4. Paralegal Student | June 9, 2014 at 3:58 am |

    Quite often retirement is seen as a happy time when one can kick back, hang up their working hat and enjoy their golden years. However it can also seem as a burden or mistreatment especially for those who have spent their lives working on building their company or being an essential part of something which evolved into a successful business. In this case when someone has had such a big role in the firm it would seem unfair to ask them to retire and expect someone else (someone who is younger) to step in and fill those shoes. Although I do think mandatory retirement is a good practice, it really needs to be a case by case situation as not all circumstances and situations are the same and need to be dealt with in a specific way to fit the situation. — Kate Lucoff

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