Suing employers is scary prospect for any anyone. They often have deeper pockets than most individuals. In the event of a wrongful dismissal, you will rightfully worry about costs associated with hiring a lawyer to take up the mantle for you. On January 1, 2020, such employees can breathe easy. Ontario’s Small Claims Court increases their claim limit from $25,000 to $35,000. This offers average people a streamlined, cost effective and accessible process for taking your employer to court.
Small Claims Court prides itself on simplified processes. The Ministry of the Attorney General’s website offers step by step instructions on how to file a claim for a nominal fee of $102. Unlike cases heard at the Superior Court of Justice or higher level courts, you do not require high priced lawyers to manage this for you. If your case is straightforward, you can simply engage the services of a law student or paralegal with enough knowledge of employment law to represent you.
Self Representation At Small Claims Court
However, legal representation is not mandatory at all at Small Claims Court. If you so choose, you may self-represent. The Attorney General’s website provides instructions on how you can proceed this way, too.
In this event, you must dedicate time to research and prepare your case. You should also allow for delays during the trial, itself. Deputy Judges might choose to move your trial at a slower pace than normal in the spirit of treating you fairly as a self-represented litigant, while balancing this with their need to be even handed.
Presently, we do not know what the real impact of the claim limit increase at Small Claims Court might be. If an immediate consequence is an increase in self-represented litigants, then this will ultimately slow down the processing of claims. And in this event, you might have to contend with delays in receiving a hearing date.
Superior Court of Justice Trials
Ironically, the main reason for the limit increase at Small Claims Court is to improve the flow of litigation at higher courts, like the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Often, employment cases heard at this level are complicated and require multiple days, if not weeks, for hearings. They usually involve wrongfully dismissed workers owed large sums of money for decades of service. They could also involve insurance companies who have denied disability benefits to ill and disabled claimants.
The present backlog results in years before such cases come to trial and reach settlement. Such delays impose grave financial hardship and stress on litigants. With smaller claims moving to Small Claims Court, the justice system hopes to expedite litigation at higher courts more efficiently.
When to Hire a Lawyer
Undoubtedly, if your claim exceeds $35,000 or if your case is complicated, then you should consult with an employment lawyer. When selecting your legal team, you must consider several factors including their experience, litigation success, specialty, communication style and of course, the legal fees.
If you remain worried about the fees, understand that many employment lawsuits lend themselves very well for the summary judgement process. Our firm paved the way for this fast-track method of settling grievances between employees and their employers. Here, the parties present sworn written statements as evidence. They appear before a judge who examines the evidence and thumbs it up against the law to reach a verdict. If your case meets the requirements for this process, we can offer you a cost effective, swift and efficient means to reach a settlement.
Lecker & Associates has primarily represented Ontario employees for over 35 years. From wrongful dismissal, negotiating fair severance packages, securing disability benefits and offering strategic advice on employment contracts to litigating egregious human rights violations and workplace harassment cases, we represent our clients aggressively and with swift efficiency.
Unlike others, our focus is singular: To fiercely defend employee rights. We operate with deep expertise in this field. Contact us for a free initial assessment of your case.
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