Even though it is a very common occurrence, an unexpected loss of employment is still a stressful and traumatic event. When faced with this kind of upheaval, most people are so focused on finding new employment that they don’t take the time to evaluate the situation and stand their ground if their employment rights have been violated.
To be clear, employers in Ontario can legally fire someone for a variety of reasons, even high-performing employees. However, they are required to meet certain obligations when they terminate someone’s employment.
When these obligations aren’t met, it can constitute a wrongful dismissal.
What is a Wrongful Dismissal?
If an employer decides to end a non-unionized employee’s employment, they must either provide reasonable working notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice, which is commonly referred to as “severance pay.”
Severance packages that fall short of an employee’s full legal entitlements are actually fairly common. So, whether the affected employees realize it or not, a significant portion of dismissals in Ontario are, in fact, wrongful dismissals. But just because a termination situation seems unfair or unreasonable, it does not necessarily constitute a wrongful dismissal.
There exists a common misconception that if an employee believes that they were dismissed for flimsy or specious reasons then they were wrongfully terminated. But that is not the case. Even if an employee believes that an employer’s decision was dishonest or unfair, wrongful dismissal only occurs in specific circumstances.
Wrongful Dismissal Situations
The vast majority of wrongful dismissal cases in Ontario fall into two broad categories. Wrongful dismissal occurs when:
- The employer fails to provide reasonable notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice;
- The employer improperly claims just cause for dismissal, based on spurious allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct.
Other Types of Dismissal
Termination Without Cause
In Ontario, an employer can legally end an employment relationship for many different business reasons, such as corporate restructuring or cost cutting measures. But this does not absolve the employer of their responsibility to provide the terminated employee with adequate notice or pay in lieu of notice.
Termination With Cause
A termination with cause occurs in situations where an employee engaged in some form of serious misconduct, such as assault, theft or fraud, or serious neglect of duty. Some employers attempt to inflate or exaggerate minor forms or misconduct to justify a termination with cause, however, misrepresenting the reason for termination is a wrongful dismissal.
Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer makes unilateral changes to an employee’s role or working conditions, such that it amounts to a de facto termination, thereby triggering the employer’s obligation to provide a severance package.
How is Termination Pay Calculated?
The financial support employees are entitled to when an employer wants to end their employment relationship varies according to several factors, so people often aren’t sure how much severance pay they are entitled to.
Generally speaking, the primary considerations are the employee’s age, role and responsibilities, the length of continuous employment with the same employer, as well as any bonuses, commissions or benefits included with their salary.
When to Contact an Employment Lawyer
When in Doubt, Don’t Sign! Contact JPAK Employment Lawyers!
In many wrongful termination cases, an employer will offer the terminated employee a severance agreement that sells them short. Employers cannot legally impose a deadline on your severance entitlements, so resist any attempts they might make to pressure you into signing something you are not comfortable with or do not fully understand.
As difficult as it might be in the moment, do not sign any documentation until you have had the chance to obtain legal advice with one of our employment lawyers. If you sign a full and final release in favour of your former employer, you will lose your claim additional compensation from your employer.
Suing for Wrongful Dismissal
If an employer fires you without adequate notice, or severance pay, an employment lawyer can file a claim on your behalf for wrongful dismissal to seek damages and compensation for the severance pay that you should have received.
In most instances, our legal team is able to bring these cases to a negotiated settlement in a timely manner, however, if the former employer is unwilling to resolve the matter, we are always prepared to escalate proceedings to get the best possible outcome for our clients.
Damages & Compensation
If a negotiated settlement is not possible, our legal team will escalate proceedings to the court system when warranted.
If a court finds that you have been wrongfully dismissed, you will be awarded damages. These damages are awarded strictly as compensation for the employer’s failure to provide adequate notice or severance pay; they do not constitute a reward for your service or a punishment for the employer because they decided to end your employment.
When wrongful dismissal claims go before a court, other forms of damages can be sought. For example, if it is found that an employer acted in a malicious way, the former employee could also be awarded moral or punitive damages.
JPAK – Employment Law Specialists in Ontario
If you have been wrongfully dismissed, JPAK Employment Lawyers know what it takes to negotiate and resolve your wrongful dismissal claim, and if necessary, commence legal proceedings. Over our 14 years of practice, we have successfully represented thousands of clients in achieving a fair resolution of their wrong dismissal cases.
During your consultation, we will review your case, your severance entitlements, and devise a cost-effective strategy with a view to maximizing your financial outcome. If you want to lodge a complaint alleging unjust dismissal, contact JPAK Employment Lawyers today.
When Does Wrongful Dismissal Apply?
If employees are offered an inadequate severance package, or the employer fails to provide adequate working notice, employees can pursue legal options, including initiating a wrongful dismissal claim against their former employers.
NOTE: A terminated employee cannot file a wrongful dismissal claim against their former employer while also pursuing a termination pay or severance pay claim through the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Employees must decide which option makes sense for their situation, after speaking with an employment lawyer.
Contact JPAK Employment Lawyers – Ontario’s Employment Law Specialists
At JPAK, our employment law group knows what it takes to protect employee rights. We can negotiate and resolve your wrongful dismissal claim, and if necessary, commence legal proceedings with the goal of obtaining the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to.
Over JPAK’s 14 years of practice, our labour law firm has successfully represented countless clients and helped them receive a fair outcome in their severance package negotiations and wrongful dismissal claims.
When you contact us for a consultation, we will review your case and provide sound advice on how to proceed regarding your severance entitlements. We will devise a cost-effective strategy with a view to maximizing your financial outcome.