Jun 01, 2017

By Melanie Reist, Lawyer

In the ...

May 23, 2017

By Morrison Reist

The Ontario Bar Association has named...

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I am an Employee

The time at which the employment relationship comes to an end or when significant changes are introduced can be a stressful time for any employee. We advise, negotiate and advocate on behalf of our clients on a number of matters including severance packages, wrongful dismissals, constructive dismissals, human rights violations, workplace harassment and employment and non-competition/solicitation.   Understanding the legal issues you face can help you make effective decisions. 

1. Wrongful Dismissal

In the vast majority of dismissals, an employee is offered a severance package and asked to return a signed release in order to receive additional compensation.  When faced with a termination package an employee needs to obtain  legal advice to ensure that what is being offered is fair.  Over the years Morrison Reist has reviewed thousands of packages and can provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

As a starting point, employees have certain minimum statutory entitlements under the Employment Standards Act or Canada Labour Code.  An employee is also entitled to reasonable notice (or payment in lieu) which will often exceed the minimum statutory requirements.  Morrison Reist can tell you what is reasonable in your situation as well as explain to you what can sometimes appear to be confusing language and references to legal concepts such as an employee’s duty to mitigate their damages (for example, many salary continuance packages contain a 50% “clawback” if you should find alternate employment). Understanding these concepts is critical when assessing the appropriateness of a severance package.       

Morrison Reist regularly negotiates on their clients’ behalf for enhanced packages to ensure that employees receive financial support consistent with the legal requirements.

From time to time employers will not provide notice or severance, alleging just cause for dismissal.  It is important to get advice to understand whether you have a case worth pursuing. 

2. Constructive Dismissal

Where fundamental changes are introduced to the employment relationship an employee may find themselves in a situation of constructive dismissal. Practically speaking, a demotion,  significant reduction in compensation, or situations of workplace bullying or harassment can amount to constructive dismissal.  It is important if an employee feels that he or she is in a situation of constructive dismissal to obtain legal advice in order to craft an effective strategy to respond to changes or misconduct in the workplace to reach an effective resolution.

3. Human Rights

The Ontario Human Rights Code requires workplaces to be free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of a person’s, race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, record of offences, marital statur, family status or disability.  Where an employee has not been treated equally in terms of his or her employment there are remedies available.  

4. Employment Contracts / Offer Letters

While no one likes to think about the end of a relationship at the beginning it is important to have any offer letters or employment contracts reviewed prior to signing.  Often these documents will include termination clauses fixing the amount of notice/severance to be provided at the time of dismissal and non solicitation/non competition provisions which can restrict an individual’s actions for years following his/her departure.

Getting advice early and understanding the impact of these provisions can save a lot of grief down the road and give you  the opportunity to negotiate more favourable employment terms.