Just Fired? 6 Ways to Know If It’s Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal is a term used to describe when an employee has been terminated from a company and the contract has been breached in some way, or employment law has not been followed.

If you’ve suffered a particularly difficult end to your employment relationship, you may be angry and frustrated, but not every termination constitutes wrongful dismissal, especially since employment law varies in each province. So, how do you know if you’ve been wrongfully dismissed?

❎ 1. Check Your Contract

Your employment contract that was signed upon hiring should include stipulations for how an employee is to be dismissed. In many cases, even if you didn’t sign an employment contract, you could still qualify for wrongful dismissal in jurisdictions where a de facto, or informal, contract exists simply by you working as an employee.

If your termination does not follow the steps set out in your contract or employee handbook, you may have a case for wrongful dismissal.

❎ 2. Check Your Notice

Were you given sufficient notice of your termination? In Canada, an employer has two ways in which to give employees notice of termination. If giving working notice, employees must be given a reasonable amount of notice, during which time they keep working for the company.

Alternatively, if the employee will stop working for the company immediately, they must be given pay in lieu of notice, usually equivalent to 1-2 weeks’ salary. If you haven’t been given sufficient notice, you might have been wrongfully dismissed.

❎ 3. Discrimination

An employer cannot end an employment relationship due to race, nationality, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation. If you feel your dismissal might have been caused due to one of these factors, with proper documentation you may qualify for wrongful dismissal.

❎ 4. Retaliation

An employer cannot terminate an employee in retaliation because an employee has filed a claim of discrimination or violation of human rights. So, if you are actively engaged in a claim against the employer, they are not permitted to fire you because of it.

❎ 5. Refusal to Commit an Illegal Act

This one is self-explanatory: an employer cannot let an employee go due to a refusal to commit an illegal act. Any illegal act, as defined by your provincial legislation, could qualify here.

❎ 6. Company Failure to Follow Its Policies

Finally, a company cannot fire an employee in a way that goes against what is written in the employment contract or employee handbook. Often, a company has instituted an employee handbook of policies and procedures, outlining the steps that must be taken before an employee is terminated. These steps could include verbal warnings, written warnings and probation. Whatever procedures the company has formalized, if these steps aren’t taken, there could be grounds for wrongful dismissal.

While your dismissal might have left a bitter aftertaste, that doesn’t mean you were wrongfully dismissed. With the above considerations in mind, you will have a much better idea of your case for wrongful dismissal. Note that even with these guidelines, you should check against your provincial employment standards for their specific definitions and requirements for a wrongful dismissal decision.

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