[For more than 2 decades Rural Legal Services (RLS) has written Legalese, a legal information column kindly published by the Frontenac News. Following the recognition of our columns by the Law Foundation of Ontario as an effective means of delivering legal information, others interested in public legal education, including the Legal Advocacy Regional Network (LEARN) and the Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc. have embraced this approach and are now sharing their newspaper articles with us under the respective banners: LEARN LAW and Law Talk.
Rural Legal Services will continue to write its own Legalese column but will provide LEARN LAW and Law Talk columns as they become available. The following Law Talk publication is the first of a series of articles covering consumer protection laws.]
If you get fired from your job there are a lot of options available to you to enforce your rights including claims under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), Canada Labour Code, Human Rights Code or a wrongful dismissal lawsuit in court. If you are unionized, you should speak with your union representative as soon as you are fired. Your union can explain to you the protections available in your union’s collective agreement.
If your employer does not have an acceptable legal reason for firing you, the employer must give you notice. This means that your employer has to tell you in advance that you will be fired. Your employer can also pay you for a period of time instead of giving notice. If you didn’t get notice or pay instead of notice, you have two options. You can make a claim to the Ministry of Labour under the ESA. or, you can sue for wrongful dismissal in Small Claims Court (claims $25,000 or less), or Superior Court for claims greater than $25,000. There are different limitation periods for making each kind of claim. You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
For the majority of employees, the ESA sets out the minimum notice period you are entitled to under the law. If you have worked at your job for at least 3 months, you are entitled to notice. In general, you are entitled to 1 week’s notice for each year that you worked up to a maximum of 8 weeks. You may also be entitled to severance pay, depending on the size of your employer and the length of your employment. The notice period for “federally regulated” employees is different as this falls under the Canada Labour Code. Speak to a lawyer if you are not sure whether you are federally regulated.
Instead of an ESA claim, you can sue your employer in Superior Court or Small Claims Court for wrongful dismissal. While there is no set amount of notice that may be ordered if your claim is successful, it is not unreasonable to ask for 1 month’s pay per year of service.
If your employer has a good legal reason for firing you, for example, fraud, theft, unexplained absences or workplace violence, you may not be entitled to anything and your employer may not have to give you notice.
Finally, you cannot be fired if the reason you are being fired is protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code (your age, disability, race, sex, etc.). You also cannot be fired as a punishment for making a claim to enforce your rights, such as a claim under the ESA for violation of your workplace rights.
When you are fired, remember that you should look for work and keep track of your job search efforts. You should also apply for Employment Insurance (EI) immediately. If you are denied EI benefits, you may be able to appeal the decision. It is important that you speak to a lawyer so that you are fully informed of your rights.
This column is brought to you by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc., and Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada at Western University, with funding support from the Law Foundation of Ontario. It provides legal information only. The information is accurate as of the date of publication. Laws change frequently so we caution readers from relying on this information if some time has passed since publication. If you need specific legal advice please contact a lawyer, your community legal clinic, Justice Net at 1-866-919-3219 or the Law Society Referral Service at 1-800-268-8326.