Employees are guaranteed certain rights if an employer decides to end their employment and dismiss the employee. Unfortunately, employers and employees are often unaware of what those rights are.
If you’ve recently been dismissed from a job without cause, you may have been owed more severance pay than you actually received. If so, or any time you have to make a work-related decision, contact a wrongful dismissal lawyer to ensure that your rights weren’t violated and you receive the full compensation you’re entitled to.
Keep reading to learn what wrongful dismissal means in Ontario, what your rights are and what you can do if you were wrongfully dismissed.
What is Wrongful Dismissal?
In a nutshell, wrongful dismissal means that you were terminated without cause but were not provided adequate notice or pay in lieu of notice before your termination.
An employer in Ontario in a non-unionized workplace can dismiss or terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all unless the termination amounts to discrimination based on a protected ground in the Ontario Human Rights Code, such as:
- Place of origin/ethnic origin
- Family status/marital status
- Sexual orientation
If you are terminated without cause, you are entitled to be given notice before the employment is officially terminated. This allows you to continue working while you look for another job. Alternatively, an employer may choose to terminate the employment immediately and pay the employee the compensation they would have received during the notice period, including benefits, bonuses, commissions, etc.
The amount of time you are entitled to as a notice period depends on if your employment contract contains a valid, enforceable termination clause regarding the length of the notice period at termination. If so, that is your entitlement.
The Employment Standards Act outlines the minimum notice period an employee is entitled to at termination (it does not apply to federally-regulated employees.) The minimum an employee is entitled to is one week of notice for every full year of service, up to a maximum of eight weeks.
However, if you did not sign an employment contract or your contract does not contain a valid, enforceable termination clause, you may be entitled to a longer notice period than the legal minimum.
Courts have ruled that a “reasonable” notice period is one that allows you to find a similar job and will look at factors including:
- The employee’s age
- How long they worked for the employer
- Their position
- The availability of similar employment.
This is referred to as a “common law” notice period. Speak to an employment lawyer if you’ve been recently dismissed to know if you are entitled to more than the minimum, even if you had an employment contract.
Wrongful dismissal can also occur if an employer makes substantial changes to the employment terms without consulting the employee and the employee leaves the employment. This is known as a constructive dismissal and a wrongful termination. That said, however, you should always speak to an employment lawyer before leaving if you feel you’ve been constructively dismissed.
Another common situation that amounts to wrongful dismissal is when an employer terminates an employee claiming that it is when the employer did not have grounds to do so. Terminations for cause are meant for severe incidents of misconduct such as theft, fraud or insubordination.
In any case of wrongful termination, an employment lawyer will seek to get their clients the compensation they are legally entitled to.
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