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wrongful dismissal

Wrongful Dismissal Claims in Canada: A Guide to Protecting Your Employment Rights

December 14, 2023

Losing a job is tough, but being dismissed without just cause is even tougher. In Canada, understanding wrongful dismissal is crucial to protecting your employment rights. Let’s break down what it means and how to handle it if it happens to you.

Understanding Wrongful Dismissal

At the heart of wrongful dismissal is a breach of the employment contract or violation of employment statutes. Termination is not wrongful if an employer has a legitimate reason (just cause) and follows the contractual or statutory procedures. However, if an employer fails to provide adequate notice or severance pay — unless the employee has engaged in serious misconduct — this may be grounds for a wrongful dismissal claim.

Wrongful dismissal isn’t just about losing your job, it’s about losing it the wrong way. It’s a dismissal that disregards the established legal process, leaving you without work and without the notice or severance you legally deserve.

A dismissal is tagged as wrongful when it breaches the employment contract or the Canadian Labour Code or any applicable provincial employment standard laws. It can include being fired without cause, without the chance to rectify alleged job performance issues, or without the notice period your contract or statute stipulates.

When Employers Can Dismiss Without Notice

Just cause termination is an exception to the requirement of notice or severance pay. This includes situations like theft, fraud, insubordination, or chronic absenteeism. However, proving just cause is on the employer, and the bar is set high.

Steps to Take After a Wrongful Dismissal

If you were wrongfully dismissed and something about the situation doesn’t feel quite right — like there’s a missing piece to the picture or you feel like you got a raw deal, here’s a guide on the steps you can take to navigate these:

  • Reviewing Employment Contract: Every employee has a contract, whether written or implied. The terms of this contract are critical in determining what constitutes wrongful dismissal. Contracts often outline the conditions under which termination is permissible and the notice required.  Take a close look at your employment contract yourself. Look for the clauses about termination and notice periods. If legal jargon isn’t your thing, don’t worry — that’s what your lawyer is for. But familiarizing yourself with the contract terms can give you some solid ground to stand on when everything else feels shaky.
  • Seeking Legal Advice: A lawyer can clarify the confusing aspects of your dismissal and help you understand the strength of your claim.
  • Document Everything: From the moment you sense that things are going sideways, start keeping records. Save emails, texts, and any official paperwork, and take notes of conversations that might be relevant to your dismissal. Think of it like gathering pieces of evidence, you never know which one will make all the difference.
  • Filing a Claim or Lawsuit: Your lawyer might advise you to file a formal claim — this is your way of officially saying, “Hey, something’s not right here.” Whether it’s with a labour board or in court, this step is about taking your grievance from a personal feeling of injustice to a recognized legal claim that demands a fair look.
  • Negotiating a Settlement: Settlements can be complex, requiring strategy and patience. Prepare your case, understand the employer’s position, stay flexible in your demands, and negotiate in good faith.

Types of Compensation for Wrongful Dismissal

Canada’s employment laws offer a safety net of minimum standards. These laws provide the least amount of notice or pay instead of notice that employers must give to employees. For example, the federal Canada Labour Code and provincial acts, like Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, set out these minimums.

Employers sometimes offer severance packages that exceed the statutory minimums. Employees are entitled to negotiate these offers to ensure they receive fair compensation, considering factors like age, length of service, and job prospects.

If you’re wrongfully dismissed, compensation can take several forms, ensuring you’re not left in a lurch:

  • Termination Pay and Notice: This is your right to either continue working through a notice period or receive pay in lieu. Factors influencing the amount include your age, which can affect employability, your level of seniority, years of service, and the likelihood of finding similar employment.
  • Severance Pay: Beyond termination pay, severance is a recognition of your commitment if you’ve been with an employer for a long time, especially in a large company.
  • Additional Damages: In cases where dismissal is especially harsh, misleading, or malicious, you may be awarded damages for mental distress or even punitive damages.

The Impact of Employment Contracts on Wrongful Dismissal

These contractual points dictate how dismissal must be handled and what compensations are due. Their fairness and clarity can be the difference between a smooth exit and a wrongful dismissal claim. Not all written clauses are set in stone. If they’re overly harsh or not written, a court might rule them unenforceable.

Choosing the Right Employment Lawyer

The right lawyer is one with a specialized focus on employment law, a communicative approach, and a supportive demeanour, ensuring you feel understood and represented.

When selecting a lawyer, look for:

  • Experience in wrongful dismissal cases
  • Expertise in employment law
  • Strong communication skills
  • Supportiveness
  • A proven track record

Start your search for a lawyer by consulting local legal directories, seeking referrals, or checking online for lawyers with high ratings and success in wrongful dismissal cases.Understanding wrongful dismissal is critical to protecting your employment rights in Canada. If you face a termination, arm yourself with knowledge, gather documentation, and consider obtaining legal advice. Employment relationships are foundational to our lives, and when they end improperly, it’s important to know where you stand and how to seek redress.

At LawVo, we ensure you have the legal resources and guidance necessary to effectively handle wrongful dismissal claims. Subscribe to LawVo today and take a stand for your employment rights.

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