My employer is pressuring me to sign a termination or severance package before I am ready to do so. I am worried that I will not have enough time to review the package. What should I do?
Sometimes employers will only give a terminated or dismissed employee a few days to review and agree to the terms of a termination or severance package. It is very common for the employer to demand that the dismissed employee agree by a certain date or risk the termination or severance package being revoked by the employer or declared “void.”
However, the dismissed employee should not be concerned over these arbitrary deadlines set by the employer because the employer does not have power to declare the dismissed employee’s rights as “void.” Under most circumstances, the employee has 2 years from the date of termination to sue the employer claiming their legal entitlements to pay in lieu of notice.
Simply put, it is very important that the dismissed employee take their severance or termination package to be reviewed by a lawyer who regularly practices employment law. Employment is an esoteric area of law. Do not go to a general practitioner or other lawyer who may simply dabble in employment law. The law changes all the time and it is crucial that the dismissed employee go to an employment lawyer who would be well aware of these changes.
The employment lawyer should review the severance or termination package and look at two main things. The first thing that the employment lawyer will review in the case of most Ontario employees is whether the severance or termination package is in compliance with the minimum standards of the Employment Standards Act. For instance, the employment lawyer will first establish whether the employee was party to a written employment agreement, job offer etc. Then, the employment lawyer will review the severance or termination package to see if the employer has properly accounted for termination pay, there is any severance owing and that the severance pay is properly accounted for, the employee is owed any vacation pay or benefits, etc. Finally, the employment lawyer will review the severance or termination package to see if the employee is entitled to common law notice as well or in addition to their entitlements under the Employment Standards Act.
The employment lawyer should then proceed to help the dismissed employee to decide what next steps to take now that they are armed with this additional information. For instance, should the dismissed employee take the severance to termination package as is? Should they negotiate with their employer for a better severance or termination package? Should they simply sue their employer for their entitlements? These are questions that the employment lawyer will be able to help the dismissed employee work though.
The bottom line is that the dismissed employee should never feel forced or pressured by their employer to sign a termination or severance package. They have options. The best way to understand these options and to be able to get the best result possible for the employee is to make sure that their termination or severance package is properly reviewed by an employment lawyer.