Employment Contracts, Ready, Aim, Fire at Will! | Author: Bram Lecker
Employment Contracts: Does Yours Pass the Canadian “Smell Test”?
Canadians and Americans may be culturally similar on some levels. However, in the arena of employment law, we could not be further apart. This is a legal environment that would make the likes of Donald Trump contrite and speechless. Generally, U.S. style employment contracts will not get a passing grade in Canada.
Over the years, our employment laws have become far superior compared to those of the United States. They protect our employees from unjust firings, harassment and discrimination due to a disability, illness or pregnancy. In Ontario, 2018 heralded in the passing of Bill 148. And with it, our employment laws were elevated even further. Employees now receive enhanced parental leave, vacation time and minimum wage. Most significantly, the government introduced protection for contract workers.
U.S. Employment Contracts
In contrast, some local U.S. states have increasingly shifted to the right, declaring themselves “Right to Work Labour Jurisdictions”. They allow employers to end your employment at-will and with little notice or compensation. Employees do not have to be at fault. You could be out of a job for simple and ambiguous reasons, like “restructuring”.
Such policies have long been the wishful dream of Canadian business lobbyists. They have sought these types of provisions to lay off employees during periods of economic downturn. All forms of “at will” terminations remain strictly prohibited in Canada.
Yet, we often see multinational employers doing business like this in Canada. They are either unaware of our laws or blatantly choose to ignore them. It seems like they take the U.S. employment contract, change the flag and consider it fit for Canadian employees. As a result, we continue to see insidious, one-sided, standard form agreements which limit employee rights to the bare minimum. They leave out many of our mandated income protections.
Null and Void Employment Contracts
Courts across Canada routinely strike out negotiated employment agreements that do not meet our minimum Provincial “Labour Board Employment Standards”. Your employment contract must pass a stress test of more than eight stringent technical requirements to ensure compliance. Our courts will also consider contracts null and void when they are ambiguously worded or fail to provide adequate considerations.
Ultimately, your employer must offer you reasonable notice or compensation in lieu when they fire you without cause, regardless of what they have stipulated in your employment contract. The definition of reasonable depends on your age, length of service, position and employability. The courts will determine how long it would take you to land a comparable job. Every case is judged on its own merits. However, higher awards in Canada range from 26 to 32 months of your total income and benefits.
Calculating your Severance Pay
If your employer fired you without adequate termination entitlements, you will need a seasoned lawyer in your corner. Negotiating severance remains a cornerstone of our practice at Lecker & Associates. We exclusively represent employees and have reviewed thousands of employment contracts over 35 years. Accordingly, we know the game and understand how to play it to your benefit.
Our lawyers will maximize the calculation of your severance to include every possible entitlement the law allows. This includes the value of your health benefits and bonuses. We can also negotiate extra intangibles, such as outplacement services and letters of employment, to help you land a new job faster.
Consider the scenario of being fired with inadequate notice and falling ill shortly after. We have dealt with such cases and pursued the employer for income protection to include lost medical benefits; furthermore, if they actively prevented you from accessing those benefits, your compensation for the grievances could add up substantially.
Understanding Your Rights
Unless you are the Great Gretsky, you will always feel powerless and face inequality when negotiating employment contracts. This is particularly true when potential employers require you to sign a contract as a condition of employment.
If you are an employee in a corporation that is under new management and signing a contract becomes a condition of continuing your existing job, then you must be even more diligent.
Being informed of your rights is always a good first step for leveling the playing field with your employer.
We can review your contract and provide you with solid advice to help you clearly understand the terms and conditions your employer has asked you to accept. We will set your mind at ease by advising you of unjust clauses that may not pass the Canadian “Smell Test”, if taken to court.
Cover Photo Credit: YouTube
We regularly update our Employee Rights Blog and encourage you to visit often. If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it.