Being fired from a job is a stressful experience, and in most cases, a fired employee will accept whatever severance pay they are offered (or worse yet, accept not receiving any severance at all) without knowing that employers frequently terminate employees without providing them with the severance pay they are entitled to by law.

If you’ve been fired for any reason, call a wrongful dismissal attorney right away. They will let you know if you are owed any further compensation, and many offers free consultations. The information below will help you understand why employees are commonly wrongfully dismissed and why you should speak to an employment lawyer if you are terminated from your job.

The Definition of Wrongful Dismissal in Ontario

Workers in Ontario who are not unionized can be terminated by their employer at any time and without any reason for the termination. However, if an employer terminates an employee without cause, the employee is entitled to a reasonable notice period that they are being dismissed before they are officially terminated so they can look for a new job.

This right to notice is guaranteed by the Employment Standards Act (ESA). (Employees of the federal government and those that work in federally-regulated industries like banks and airlines have their employment rights outlined in the Canada Labour Code.)

A notice period is meant to act as a “bridge” so an employee isn’t suddenly left without an income and scrambling to find work. 

During the notice period, an employer can require the employee to continue working until the notice period ends, or they can end the employment immediately and pay the employee the wages they would have earned during the notice period – this is known as “pay in lieu of notice” or termination pay.

If an employer dismisses an employee without providing them a reasonable notice period to find a new job or pay them in lieu of working a reasonable notice period, the law in Ontario considers this a wrongful dismissal.

How Much Notice Are Workers Entitled To?

Under the ESA, the notice period is determined by the length of your service. Currently, employees are entitled to a minimum of one week of notice for every year of service to a maximum of eight weeks. 

However, the ESA is only the minimum notice period allowed in Ontario. Many Ontarians have a notice period spelled out in their employment contracts. That notice cannot be less than what’s provided for in the ESA for that clause to be enforceable. 

Workers in Ontario, however, are often entitled to more than the minimum notice period provided for by the ESA. Because the wording of the law states that an employee is entitled to “reasonable notice,” judge’s ruling on wrongful termination cases have confirmed that what’s provided by the ESA is not reasonable in many circumstances. It all depends on what your contract of employment says regarding your notice period and whether the clause is enforceable under the law.

Since the notice period is intended to give someone enough time to find new work, judges often rule that the ESA minimum does not provide a terminated employee with a reasonable amount of time to do so, depending on their circumstances.

Some of an employee’s circumstances a judge will consider include: 

  • the type of work done by the employee;
  • the length of the employee’s service;
  • the employee’s age; and 
  • the employee’s ability to find future employment.

In other words, if you are terminated without cause and your employer only provides you with the minimum notice period in the ESA, you may have been wrongfully dismissed and entitled to more than you were offered as termination pay.  

That’s why if you are dismissed for any reason, it’s a good idea to speak with an employment lawyer who offers free consultations to ensure that you aren’t owed any further compensation. You have two years from the termination date to file a claim.

If you are offered a severance agreement, do not sign it until you speak with an employment lawyer. Despite what your employer says, you do not have to make a decision on the spot.