What to do when your Employment is Terminated
If you've been dismissed from your employment, there are steps you can take immediately to preserve and advance your rights. Firstly, if you sign a release of legal claims, there may be little any lawyer can do to help you. So as a matter of first importance:
Don't sign a release.
You do not need to sign a release in order to receive your accrued wages, accrued vacation, and statutory minimum notice (if applicable). Under the BC Employment Standards Act, these must be paid within 48 hours of termination. Instead, you should collect whatever documents are given to you, and take them away to be reviewed by a lawyer.
Plan on speaking with a lawyer to learn your legal entitlements. Employment law confers a complex system of rights on each employee, and each person's employment situation is unique. It takes the individualized attention of someone with employment legal expertise to determine what kind of rights, and claims, you may have (in other words, an online severance calculator doesn't do the job).
We make it easy and cost-effective to get the advice you need so that you can make the best choice in a difficult situation. Keep reading to learn more about our process.
Step 1: gather the facts.
First, we need to know the basic facts of your case. To accurately assess your case and provide advice, we must know:
- Your name and age
- The name of your employer
- Length of time in the employment
- Details of your employment such as your position, responsibilities, wages, benefits, and reporting structure
- When termination occurred and how it occurred
- How the termination came about
- What severance pay you were offered or paid, if any
Step 2: prepare the documents.
Depending on your situation we will need to review certain employment documents, such as:
- Hiring contract or offer letter
- Compensation plan(s)
- Any subsequent agreements
- Relevant correspondence between you and the employer or your coworkers
- Recent pay stubs
- Letters of discipline, if any
- Termination letter
- Record of Employment (if issued)
All these documents may not be relevant or present in your case. Just bring what you have, and your lawyer will determine what else they might need to see.
Step 3: speak with a lawyer.
Your lawyer will need to interview you to establish the facts of your case and form a legal opinion. This happens in an initial consultation. During the consultation, your lawyer will ask you questions about how you were hired, what happened during the employment relationship, and how you were dismissed or treated unfairly. We will review your employment contract and other documents, explore facts that support your claim, and evaluate the amount of compensation you may be owed. Often, the facts revealed in the consultation uncover aspects of the hiring and dismissal that increase the severance pay owed to you by the employer, such as discrimination and prohibited actions.
Even if you do not retain us to act on your behalf, you will receive valuable legal advice and practical considerations during your consultation. In return, we expect each client to respect and value our time and our expertise. We charge a reasonable fixed fee for one-hour consultations, based on the length of time most consultations take. Learn more about our consultation process here.
Step 4: settlement negotiation.
After the consultation, you may decide to retain us to represent you in pursuing a legal claim. Our first stop is typically to try and negotiate a fair settlement, because this is most cost-effective for our client. We will work with you to form a bargaining strategy you're comfortable with, and agree on the compensation we will seek from your employer. We will set our bargaining position out in a demand letter to your employer. Often, dismissal cases can be settled at an early stage with a powerfully worded demand letter.
Sometimes it is more effective, or necessary, to issue proceedings in court right away. In the event that you and the employer fail to reach a negotiated settlement, then litigation is also a path to advance your dismissal-related claims. We will set out your options and help you choose the one that's best for you. These options may include suing in court, or bring other employment claims in BC administrative tribunals such as the Employment Standards Branch, Human Rights Tribunal, or WorkSafeBC. How you proceed is a decision that is always yours to make.