Should I sign my severance package?
Almost never. Whereas on occasion we are inclined to recommend signing the first offer made by the dismissing employer, 99% of the time we can improve upon that offer. Severance is an inherently nuanced matter and improvements are always possible. This is not limited to the gross payment either. Improvements can take many forms such as favourable tax structuring, positive professional references and adequate assurances that you will actually get the money on offer.
The first call is always free and we almost always find a way to improve the first offer that was made.
Is my employment contract valid?
In many ways contractual provisions can be illegal. If your contract contains one or more onerous or offensive provisions, there is a good chance those provisions are invalid. Examples of invalid provisions include, without any limitation:
- variance from the provisions of employment standards legislation
- variance from the provisions of human rights legislation
- unconscionability generally
- the addition of onerous terms after employment has started (especially in the absence of a corresponding benefit such as a raise)
- you never having agreed to the term expressly or implicitly
Employers should contact us prior to sending out employment offers. Many online precedents are American and contain clauses which are illegal in Canada (such as "at will" employment).
Employees should contact us at any time they feel they are being subjected to unfair treatment of any kind.
How should I choose my lawyer?
Fundamentally, it is a question of 'fit.' If we do not have mutual respect and trust, the relationship is not going to be viable. But at Inlet Law we would rather see a client not hire us than try to convince them to do something that does not feel right. Ours is not the only approach to the practice of law and if you are dissatisfied with our advice or even unsure we would be more than happy to point you to other leading practitioners at other firms. If we are going to lose your business we want to lose it to other prominent and capable lawyers.
When is the right time to call a lawyer?
A very unfortunate irony is that many of our clients contact us too late as a result of fearing the potential costs of retaining a lawyer. In fact, with almost no exceptions, the earlier you contact a lawyer the better. Many times there are steps you can take at the very beginning of a problem (or potential problem) which can save thousands of dollars down the road. The best time to address a wrongful dismissal is usually in the hiring letter/contract.
A prominent Canadian businessperson and client of ours once told us that paying for our advice is actually a good way to make money. We agree. If we cannot add value we will say so in our first phone call, which is free. So if you even think you might want legal advice, please consider calling us to hear what we think.
What is “just cause?”
Just cause is a term of art in employment law. An employee terminated for just cause is not entitled to severance or notice. With that being said, if your employer asserts "just cause" to fire you, it does not mean they are right.
The seminal case on the issue is McKinley v BC Tel, where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that just cause could only be evaluated with reference to the specific context of each given case.
Just cause is defined in many ways in the case law, but (broadly speaking) it tends to fall into one of two categories:
1. minor misconduct which the employer specifically notifies the employee must be improved upon; or
2. misconduct which is so egregious that no warning is required.