Getting fired can happen to any of us. Some of the most recognizable and successful business men and women have been fired from their jobs too! You are not alone, and your career is not over. Aside from planning out the next chapter of your professional life, it is important to understand your legal rights and entitlements. Far too often employees will simply sign whatever termination letter is presented to them by their employer without ever asking (or getting answers) to the many questions they may have. Here are short answers to some of the common questions:
Can my employer fire me for no reason?
Yes, they can. In Ontario employers may terminate your employment “without cause” at any time so long as the employer has provided you with reasonable notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice (ie. a severance package). There are exceptions to this rule, and a termination may be unlawful where a decision to terminate an employee is determined to be discriminatory and in breach of the Human Rights Code or is done in retaliation for an employee seeking to enforce their rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) or the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
I’ve been offered ESA minimums as termination pay – is that all I am entitled to?
Often no. The Employment Standards Act sets out the minimum entitlements for termination and severance pay. However, an employee may be entitled to a significantly larger package where reasonable notice of termination is required. At common law, an employee is entitled to reasonable notice unless there is there is a valid and enforceable written agreement with a termination provision that limits the employee’s entitlements. Otherwise, significantly more severance pay is usually owed.
What is a “wrongful dismissal”?
The term “wrongful dismissal” often confuses people. It doesn’t mean that an employer terminated its employee without good reason. As mentioned above, an employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time and without cause. Rather, a wrongful dismissal occurs when an employee is terminated without cause, and the employer fails to provide their employee with reasonable notice of termination.
What is “reasonable notice”?
Common law provides that an employee who was terminated without cause is entitled to reasonable notice of dismissal or pay in lieu of notice of dismissal (unless there is a valid and enforceable agreement stating otherwise). Determining the reasonable notice period requires a personalized assessment of the circumstances and factors involved in the case. The core factors identified by the courts include the employee’s length of service, the employee’s age, the character of the employment and the availability of similar employment. There is no precise formula for determining reasonable notice – the noted factors must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, common law reasonable notice will almost always be significantly more than the minimums provided under the Employment Standards Act.
Lawyers are expensive and I’m not working – how much will it cost me to have my severance package reviewed?
With Hummingbird Lawyers, you can request a free consultation where we review and assess your severance package offer and the circumstances surrounding your termination. If the package is unreasonable and less than what you are entitled to, we will explain why and work with you to develop a plan to get you the package that you are entitled to. Hummingbird’s employment law services are also available on a contingency fee basis – which means that you don’t pay for our services until you get paid by your previous employer.