This article originally appeared on the Monster.ca website.
Being fired is never easy on an employee. Regrettably, many who lose their jobs make their situation worse by not knowing or finding out about their legal rights. Canadian courts have become more pro-employee in recent years, which is all the more reason for employees to learn more about suing for wrongful dismissal. Most have good cases.
Here are ten myths which we think employees need to avoid buying into:
1. My employer can fire me “at will”: Firing employees on the spot and without notice is an American concept which does not apply in Canada. Unless they have cause, which is a high hurdle, Canadian companies must give employees reasonable severance pay, which is measured in months, even years, not weeks.
2. I cannot afford to hire a lawyer: Quite the opposite is true. Most employees cannot afford not to get legal advice. Wrongful dismissal cases are common these days, so most employees, at whatever level, obtain advice after being fired. Most lawyers, if presented with a good case, will agree to bill the dismissed employee at the end out of the settlement.
3. There is no option but to accept fundamental changes to my job: If the company makes substantial changes to your duties or to how you are paid, you may have a claim for constructive dismissal. This means you could resign if you disagree and sue for wrongful dismissal damages.
4. I’m entitled to a month of notice per year of service: There are no hard and fast rules about how much notice employees must receive. Some short service employees get more than a month per year, while other, especially long service employees, will get less. Wrongful dismissal cases depend on their facts, so it’s worth getting expert advice.
5. The company has alleged cause, so I have no right to damages: Cause has become increasingly harder to prove. Employers often allege cause to avoid paying severance. If the allegations are unfounded, your claim is actually stronger, since the courts frown on this so-called bad faith manner of termination, and award even more severance pay to punish the employer.
6. I’ve signed an employment contract so cannot sue: A contract limiting what you can sue for is not an automatic bar to a lawsuit. Numerous legal defences are available, so a skillful lawyer can often successfully challenge the contract’s validity, and the court will award damages as though the contract was never signed.
7. I have no claim since I’ve received the employment standards payout: Statutory termination and severance pay are minimum legal requirements, setting the floor but not the ceiling. Employees often mistakenly think the employment standards payout is a cap to their damages claim, but the value is virtually always much greater.
8. I was fired within the first three months, so I won’t get anything if I sue: Employees are not automatically on probation, and they need to agree to this when signing on to take the job. Even if probation is agreed to, the company will still need cause to fire you unless there is a contract specifically limiting severance.
9. Starting a wrongful dismissal claim is difficult: Any lawyer with a specialty in employment law can file a lawsuit with relative ease. Recent changes to the court rules have streamlined the way that courts handle these cases, so quicker results are now common.
10. Employers deliberately drag out legal actions to squeeze employees: It’s rare these days for a company to prolong a case regardless of the merits. Employers will be punished by the courts, and employees will be rewarded, if unfounded cases are taken to trial and the employer is seen to have deliberately delayed the employee’s recovery
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