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Employer terminates job, telling employee late

By CO Staff |

Mark asked:

I've been terminated on April 20, but they just told me on April 29.

They want me to go from full time to working at home part time. Can they do this without any severance pay?

CO Staff answered:

Employment law varies from province to province. Without knowing all of the details it is impossible to give you a precise answer.

There is often confusion about the money you get if your job is terminated. Employers are required to give employees enough notice, as defined by provincial legislation (which is the minimum standard) and/or decisions from the courts, if they choose to terminate that employee's position without "just cause".

An employer will sometimes choose to have the employee leave the day he/she is terminated, in which case they give them pay in lieu of notice. This is often confused with severance pay. Ontario's Ministry of Labour explains the difference this way:

"Severance pay is compensation that is paid to a qualified employee who has his or her employment "severed." It compensates an employee for loss of seniority and job-related benefits. It also recognizes an employee's long service. Severance pay is not the same as termination pay, which is given in place of the required notice of termination of employment."

The law varies from province to province, but severance pay typically applies to companies over a certain size. For example, in Ontario severance is paid by employers with a payroll of at least $2.5 million or an employer that has severed the employment of 50 or more employees in a six month period due to some or all of the business being closed.

Back to your situation. It sounds like you may be in a situation of "constructive dismissal", which happens when the employer fundamentally changes and employment term of the employee (ie. the shift to asking you to work part time and also to work from home).

An employee who is constructively dismissed needs to act quickly to maintain his/her rights; if, through your actions, you are deemed to have 'accepted' the new terms then you may lose the ability to pursue a claim against your employer.

Which leads to two important things you need to know at this point:

1) You are going to need to get professional advice based on the specific details of your situation for your province. Your options will be to speak with a representative of the Employment Standards office in your province and/or to consult with a lawyer. The Employment Standards offices all tend to offer good support and many lawyers will offer an initial half hour consultation free of charge.

2) You cannot bring a claim against your former employer through both the Employment Standards office and a lawyer, so be careful in your decision and don't jump ahead until you have decided what is best for you.

Also, it's important to note that employment legislation does not apply to independent contractors.

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