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Good advice.

Wrongful dismissal

DBM Law Blog

I think I was let go from my job unfairly. What rights do I have?

Here are the answers to 4 key questions about wrongful dismissal.

Many psychologists rank losing your job among the top five stressful events you can go through in life. It ranks up there with divorce, major illness, even the death of a loved one.

It can make you doubt yourself and have a long lasting effect on your self­ confidence. Many people experience the classic five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

These feelings can be even greater if you feel you have been wrongfully dismissed. At DBM, we believe you should know your rights and understand what is, and isn’t, wrongful dismissal according to the law. Please note, that these guidelines for non­-unionized employees only. Unions usually negotiate termination processes with the employer on behalf of their members.

All employees that are dismissed must be given “reasonable notice of termination.”

What is considered “reasonable notice?” It varies according to the individual, but in Canada, generally, the most important factors in determining how long reasonable notice should be are: your age, the type of job you held, how long you worked for the company, whether your job is difficult to replace, and how difficult it will be for you to find a similar job in your area.

If you think you might want to challenge a dismissal notice in court, you should know that most courts usually count periods of reasonable notice in months. If you have been with the company for a long time, the courts expect the company to give you several months notice of termination.

Will they want me to continue working there if they give me a long advance notice? This allows the company to bring in a new hire, if applicable, and it gives you a financial cushion while you find new employment

I’ve heard that anyone can be let go without notice or “just cause.” What is “just cause?” According to the law, “just cause” is behaviour that the employer deems to be so inappropriate that the employee has, in effect, breached the duties and responsibilities of loyalty, fidelity or trust. In these situations, the employer can claim that it has “just cause” to fire the employment immediately, without notice.

What if the employer doesn’t come right out and dismiss me, but changes the conditions of my employment so much that it’s not really my job any more? Under the law, this is called “constructive dismissal,” and some employers do this to try to get employees to quit. That way, they don’t have to give or pay out long periods of notice or large severance benefits.

Some ways employers do this is to make you work longer hours for the same pay, or you won’t have an office anymore, or you were a senior executive, but now you’re a junior clerk­ anything that is a drastic change from your job description.

In the courts, the employee must prove that the employer made changes to the working relationship in the hope of getting the employee to quit.

What if I don’t have a contract? Don’t worry. Under common law, if you perform work for pay, you have a contract, even if it is not written down, and the employer must still give you reasonable notice.

If you believe you have been wrongfully dismissed, DBM urges you to find a good labour lawyer to review your particular situation so you know exactly what your rights and obligations are. It will reduce the stress and help you move forward to the next chapter of your working life.


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