There are some people out there that can proudly boast “I have never been fired.” Unfortunately for many people this is not the case. Being terminated is a great cause of stress in many peoples’ lives. The fear of being terminated often weighs in the back of employees’ minds. We spend the majority of our time at work and our work can often be a source of pride and part of who we are and how we define ourselves, hence why being terminated can be a very stressful time in people’s lives. Not only are there significant financial stressors, but also emotional stressor that accompany being terminated.

It is important to know your rights as well as your employer’s rights and obligations when you are terminated.

Do you have an employment agreement?

Employment agreements can be oral, written or a combination of both. An employment agreement will set out the rights and obligations of the employee and employer and will define the employment relationship. If you have a written employment agreement this may also outline and limit what you are entitled to when the employment relationship ends. If you are terminated or if you think you may be terminated it is important to review your employment agreement to understand your rights with respect to being terminated. Equally important is determining whether or not the written employment agreement is valid. There are many factors that need to be considered to determine if your employment agreement is valid, including when you signed the agreement and whether you were provided reasonable consideration for signing the agreement. If you are unsure of your employment agreement or of the validity of the employment agreement, it is important to have it reviewed by an employment lawyer.

Were you terminated for cause or without cause?

For a lot of people it is important to them to know why they were terminated, however in the employment relationship there are two ways in which an employer can terminate an employment relationship. One with cause, where the employee has done something that justifies the termination, and two, without cause, where the employer may not have a specific reason to terminate the employment relationship.

If you are terminated with cause, the employer will tell you why you are being terminated and they must show that they have just cause to terminate you. What constitutes just cause depends on the circumstances; however some examples of what may be considered just cause are neglect of duty, dishonesty, theft and fraud, and misconduct.

If you are terminated without cause, then the employer need not provide a reason as to why you were terminated and they do not have to have a reason. Instead the employer must provide you with reasonable notice that your position will be terminated or payment in lieu of notice.

What compensation are you entitled to?

If your employment has been terminated without cause then you are entitled to notice or payment in lieu of notice. The Employment Standards Act sets out the statutory minimum employers are required to pay employees when they are terminated. In addition to the statutory minimum you may be entitled to common law severance. If you have an employment agreement this may set out what severance you are entitled to. A terminated employee’s entitlement to severance depends on a number of factors, including the character of your employment, your length of service, your age, your experience, training and qualifications.  Additionally severance is not just limited to your wage or salary, but may include other types of remuneration such as bonuses, extended health benefits, vacation pay and any other benefits you received from you employment.

Being terminated is a stressful and difficult time in anyone’s life and it is important to have an advocate on your side. Should you wish to explore what compensation is available to you after your termination, it would be best to seek legal advice from counsel practicing in this area. Making a claim and standing up to a former employer can be a stressful and complicated process; an employment lawyer will simplify the process and make sure you are reasonably compensated.

The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer.  If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.


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