Wrongful Dismissal and Severance Review
Whatever language your employer used or is about to use to end your employment relationship, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your severance rights and entitlements as an employee before it’s too late – we don’t want to scare you, but there are time requirements that must be complied with. We also don’t want to see your employer unjustly minimize what you receive so do not sign anything until you have had us review any proposed offer and terms of release. Even if your employer has said you have done something seriously wrong or have committed repeated misconduct and has terminated you for cause without any compensation payable to you, in many instances this is only a scare tactic used by employers to avoid their responsibilities to provide you with compensation or to force you into a quick and small settlement. What we mean is, don’t accept what they tell you at face value. Take it with a grain of salt and have us first review the facts because as is often the case, your employer may simply be blowing smoke.
“Contractors”: we’re also talking to you. Don’t let your company-imposed title of “contractor” fool you – there is a good chance that, in reality, you’re actually an employee and entitled to severance, regardless of what “Bob” in Human Resources tells you. Even if you are a “contractor”, you’re probably a “dependent contractor” and, again, entitled to an amount of reasonable notice, severance or pay-in-lieu of notice like any other employee. The fact is, Human Resources does not work for you, nor are they legally trained – we advise against accepting what they have to say without consulting an effective employment lawyer. While we’re at it here, disregard the old rumor that spread around employers like wildfire – one year of service does not always equal one month of notice or pay-in-lieu. We think that’s just lazy and misleading thinking.
We could bore you with an in-depth discussion of the confusing legalese – because believe us, we speak that language, too, just as well or better than any lawyer out there – but we’d rather focus on what matters most to you – your rights in plain English. We can and want to help. Let’s discuss what happened and get you on the road to a settlement.
Whatever the case may be, your employer may have breached an essential term of your employment agreement entitling you to compensation in a manner no different than if you had been blatantly fired or laid off without cause. Again, we don’t want to scare you, but there are time requirements that must be complied with. Allow us to step in and look out for your best interests while we are still able to. We’ll do our best to put an immediate end to this conduct and get you what you deserve – it’s what we do best.
Human Rights, Harassment, Bullying, Intimidation and Discrimination
If you think you may have become the subject of workplace harassment, bullying, intimidation or discrimination because of your ethnicity, country of origin, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, age, marital or family status, or sexual orientation, let’s put an end to it. Allow us to talk with you and discuss what’s been going on. If we find evidence of a workplace human rights violation or harassment, bullying, intimidation and discrimination because of a protected ground, we’ll ensure that this conduct ends immediately and that you are reasonably accommodated. If it does not end, and you are not reasonably accommodated, we will vigorously prosecute a human rights complaint and/or a civil action for constructive dismissal and a claim for damages on your behalf against your employer. We’ve got your back and really dislike bullies. Like, really dislike.
Employment, Non-Competition/Non-Solicitation & Non-Disclosure Agreements
There is really nothing we hate more than seeing a long-term employee (that is, employees with 10+ years of service) laid off with nothing more provided to them from their employer than eight weeks pay-in-lieu of notice. Yes, this is the Alberta statutory minimum amount of notice or pay-in-lieu (i.e. severance) for an employee with 10 or more years of service, which many employers are now validly limiting their employees to. Why do we hate this so much? That’s simple – it’s easily preventable and can represent a fraction of what you would otherwise receive by way of severance or notice if this clause was not part of your employment agreement. Have your employment agreement reviewed by us before you sign. We’ll determine whether this has been validly drafted and if we catch this early enough, and if your employer really wants to hire you as much as they say they do, we’ll make sure they get rid of this unfair and one-sided clause to protect you and your family from a costly layoff. If you have already been terminated, before signing any settlement agreement or release, again, have us review your employment agreement’s termination clause – just because it’s there does not mean its enforceable. Human Resources and/or lawyers not specialized in employment law often make drafting mistakes – let us pick the clause apart and show you why it’s likely invalid.
You’ve probably heard of a non-compete or non-competition clause before. If you haven’t, these clauses basically aim to prevent you from competing against your former employer in the event that they terminate your employment or you resign. Sounds unfair, right? In our opinion, a non-compete can serve an important purpose in other contexts, such as in the sale of a business, but certainly not in the employment world. The good news is – in many if not most cases, these clauses will not be enforceable against you. For starters, we can tell you that your employer can’t rely on this clause at all if you have been wrongfully dismissed. These clauses are also completely useless if your employer either simply made you sign it at some point after you were hired without giving you anything in return, or if you were bullied into signing one or risk being fired. Employers will often include them in employment agreements simply as an intimidation tactic, hoping you will think it’s valid and obviously not take-up competition against them once a termination has occurred. Unfortunately, this usually benefits the employer because many employees don’t seek out legal counsel and simply trust that these are enforceable. Let us be the judge of that – we’ll review your agreement and assess whether it’s been properly drafted and is reasonable. In all likelihood, we’ll have some good news for you – you’ve got to earn a living somehow… and the courts generally tend to agree.
Because we like speaking to you in plain English and because we don’t need to impress you with our legalese, we’ll keep this simple and to the point. If you have a non-solicitation clause in your employment agreement, or if we determine you are the sort of employee who has these implied obligations, you are nevertheless usually still able to compete against your former employer – don’t let your employer’s ill-informed Human Resources rep tell you otherwise. We are asked this all the time: “Solicitation” only covers certain, limited behaviours – so long as you don’t engage in active inducement, targeting or recruitment, the decision of a former customer or potential customer to use your services or buy your products is still theirs, and only theirs. Not your former employer’s. Ask us what you can and cannot do, or whether you’re even bound by this type of clause and we’ll happily get you off to a good start in your new employment or business after a termination – with the peace of mind that your former employer will not come after you.
Drafting, reviewing and advising on employment agreements and restrictive covenants (i.e. non-competition, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements) is right up our alley. In a previous life, we drafted these for employers ranging from large-scale multinationals to local businesses – we just became tired of that and now want to use our knowledge and experience to help you and only you, the employee. We know what we’re doing here.