What Should You Do if You Believe You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated in Alberta?

If you’ve lost your employment with a company, whether you were fired or laid off, you have the right to question the termination if you believe it was without reasonable cause. First of all, do not sign the termination papers or the severance agreement, as this may be considered a recognition of fault on your part and forfeit your ability to pursue legal action. The decision not to sign your severance agreement can be difficult, especially as you may be hurt financially and desperately need that severance package to support your cost of living. Employment lawyers suggest that you do not rush things, however, and instead consider the options available to you legally.

If you believe you were wrongfully dismissed, document everything related to your dismissal. This includes documenting what was said by your ex-employers during the meeting in which you were released and the tone in which it was said. Additionally, please keep any and all paperwork, both from your time of employment (pay stubs, performance reviews, benefits packages) and from the eventual dismissal (termination papers and company correspondence). By recording these critical facts about your termination, you and your employment lawyers will be able to construct a more robust legal case.

What is the Difference Between Termination Without Cause and Wrongful Dismissal?

When employees are fired from their jobs, it is done either with cause or without cause. Termination without cause may not be illegal depending on the circumstances. Many companies must terminate employees from time to time, even when that employee has done nothing wrong to deserve it. Termination without cause can be the result of a company downsizing or the elimination of a certain division. While it is unfortunate that employees may lose their jobs as a result of the company’s new business direction, it is not strictly speaking illegal.

If you are terminated without cause in Alberta, you are usually entitled to receive notice prior to the termination, or you can expect to receive pay instead of notice. Some exceptions apply, however. You should speak with an employment lawyer if you did not receive notice or severance pay that you believe you were entitled to.

A termination becomes wrongful if the employer does not provide the required notice or severance pay, or if the employer wrongfully claims “just cause”. In either case, the employee should consult with an employment lawyer to discuss whether they should take legal action.

What is the Difference Between Wrongful Dismissal and Constructive Dismissal?

Not all wrongful dismissals are constructive dismissals. But every constructive dismissal is a wrongful dismissal.

Constructive dismissal is a type of wrongful termination wherein the employer essentially forces the employee into a corner. They may ask that the employee accept a lower salary, a demotion, or a new, less appealing role with the company, or else risk losing their job altogether. This ‘take it or leave it’ strategy forces an employee to either accept alteration to an “essential term” of their original terms of employment, or refuse and claim constructive dismissal.

Proving constructive dismissal can be complex and difficult. We recommend you hire professional legal representation to ensure you have a strong case before proceeding with a constructive dismissal claim.

What is Considered a Wrongful Termination in Alberta?

The majority of dismissals from employment are considered lawful, regardless of whether the employee was performing their tasks admirably. The termination will likely be considered valid if the employer provides adequate advance notice or severance pay in lieu of notice. Failing either of these things, however, could lead to a successful wrongful dismissal claim.

Many employers will opt to provide only the minimum legal entitlements as laid out in the Employment Standards Code, even though the employee may be entitled to more under the terms of their employment contract. In such cases, it may be possible to recover a greater severance package.

What Are Different Types of Wrongful Termination?

The primary examples of wrongful termination include:

  • Dismissal without cause and the employee is not given adequate notice or severance.
  • Constructive dismissals, wherein the employer changes the essential terms of an employee’s role (such as salary or responsibilities) without that employee’s consent.
  • When an employer wrongfully terminates an employee and the ’cause’ is fabricated.

When is Notice Not Required Prior to Termination?

Employers do not always need to provide notice before terminating an employment relationship. Examples include:

  • Continued employment would put the employee’s health or safety at risk.
  • The employee cannot work due to a strike.
  • The employee has spent fewer than 91 days on the job.
  • The employee is laid off after refusing reasonable alternative duties.
  • The employee quits due to wage changes, vacation pay, or overtime rates.
  • The employment contract is impossible to perform due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • They are considered ‘casual employees’ and choose not to accept work.

Schedule Your Initial Consultation with an Experienced Employment Lawyer in Alberta Today

The only surefire way to know whether you have a legitimate case for wrongful termination is to consult with experienced employment lawyers in Alberta. These legal matters can be complicated, and the legal representatives for your former employers are likely experienced in defending against claims of workers like you.

Getz Collins and Associates would be proud to assist you in your wrongful termination case. Please contact our law offices to schedule your initial consultation. (587) 391-5600.