Is This Fair? A Closer Look At Your Legal Rights If You’ve Been Let Go

It’s Not Fair

I’ve worked here for twenty years.

Why did I get let go and Sheila in accounting didn’t?

I did my job well, and they’re not even going to pay me what I’m worth in severance.

When it comes to termination, “fair” is a loaded word. No, it may not be fair that you were let go and someone else was not. No, it may not be fair that you gave decades of your life to a company and were seemingly cast away without a thought. But the reality is that, in most cases, an employer can terminate you for any reason at any time. Unfair does not necessarily mean unlawful. 

Termination and the Human Rights Code

The law generally allows employers in Ontario to terminate employees “at will,” or without cause. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, however, you cannot be “let go” because of your:

  • Gender expression
  • Gender identity 
  • Marital status 
  • Place of origin
  • Race
  • Sex 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Disability (accommodation must be provided unless it would cause “undue hardship” for the employer)

Additionally, the Employment Standards Act prohibits employers from dismissing or otherwise punishing employees who exercise, or attempt to exercise, their rights under this law. For example, if you file a complaint because your employer did not pay them mandated overtime or approve a covered leave of absence (e.g. family medical, reservist, etc.), they cannot terminate you on those grounds. 

Was Your Termination Unlawful?

If you feel that your termination was unlawful, meet with an employment lawyer and share your story. Your lawyer will gather the necessary background information and assess the situation, as well as the severance package offered. Is it unlawful? Are there issues related to discrimination? Accommodations? Reprisal? If so, they can then help you look at possible remedies. These may include:

  • Negotiating severance
  • Starting an application with the Human Rights Tribunal 
  • Suing for wrongful dismissal damages
  • Filing a complaint with the Ministry of Labour 

An employment lawyer will walk you through the options and assist you in finding the best course of action given your circumstances.

If You’ve Been Terminated

Try to remove “fair” and “unfair” from the equation. Check with an employment lawyer, even if the severance offer seems reasonable. You want to be sure that your package includes appropriate compensation and every entitlement it should. If it does, you can sign and take the next steps in your career. If it does not, you can explore legal remedies.

 

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About Holly Gomes

Holly represents clients in both family and employment law matters.

In family law, Holly advises clients in all aspects of matrimonial law and family disputes including custody and access, divorce, marriage and cohabitation contracts, separation agreements, and Collaborative Family Law.

In employment law, Holly advises on all aspects of the employment relationship, including advising and representing both employees and employers on human rights, resolving workplace conflicts, advising on and negotiating severance packages and representing employers and employees in litigation.

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