Labour & Employment Law Blog

Laid off from your job?

Learn What to Do!

Last week it was reported that Bell Media announced widespread layoffs and was planning on cutting 4,800 jobs from all levels of the company. At Zeilikman Law, we understand how distressing this can be for any employee who is subjected to a layoff.

An employer has the right to terminate an employee if there is reasonable notice of the employer’s intentions to dismiss the employee. Unless “just cause” for dismissal is established, there are implied terms in the employment contract between the employee and employer that protect the employee’s rights arising out of dismissal, typically in the form of reasonable notice. In the absence of a legally enforceable clause in the employment agreement, it is when the employer has not provided adequate notice of termination that the employee’s firing becomes “wrongful.”

Talk to an Employment Lawyer

The first thing that an employee whose employment has ceased needs to do is to get their employment agreement or contract (if they have one) reviewed by an employment lawyer along with any termination documentation they have received from their employer. The employee will need the help of an employment lawyer to assist them in navigating the complex world of wrongful dismissal to ensure that they are not leaving any compensation behind that they are entitled to.

In situations where the employee’s employment is governed by provincial statute (which is most of the employment here in Ontario), the employment lawyer will review the termination or severance package and assess its fairness on the basis of various legal principles. For instance, the employment lawyer will review whether the termination or severance package complies with the minimum standards of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000. The employment lawyer will look to see if the employer has properly accounted for termination pay, whether there is any severance pay owing to the employee, whether there was any vacation pay or benefits owing to the employee, etc. Then the employment lawyer will go on to review the termination or severance package to determine if the employee is entitled to common law notice in addition to their statutory entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. An employer can only lawfully limit an employee’s entitlement to proper notice under the common law if the employee’s employment agreement’s termination clause or provision is enforceable. In our experience, not a lot of employers’ employment agreements or employment contracts with their employees contain properly drafted and implemented termination clauses that can be enforced. Finally, the employment lawyer will discuss the facts leading to the employee’s dismissal taking into account the employee’s treatment and any potential human rights concerns, etc.

In Bell Media’s particular case, the employees are federally regulated employees and are subject to federal laws and regulations pursuant to the Canada Labour Code, 1985 (“Code”). Federally regulated employee can also commence a civil wrongful dismissal lawsuit just like their provincial counterparts for termination pay, among other forms of relief, at common law and the analysis to determine the amount of termination pay will be the same as what is discussed with respect to termination pay and the common law for provincially regulated employees. It is not entirely clear under what circumstances Bell Media’s employees’ employment ceased and whether it was a true “layoff” or a “dismissal.” Whatever the case, its employees are entitled to seek legal advice to ascertain their rights. What is crucial for non-unionized federally regulated employees like Bell Media’s, is that under certain circumstances such employees may pursue an unjust dismissal complaint pursuant to federal legislation and claim reinstatement with full backpay. The unjust dismissal route is an extra option that is available to non-unionized federal employees in addition to any rights available at common law.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that if an employee has been fired, dismissed or “laid off” from their job, they may be entitled to compensation both statutorily and under common law. To figure out if they are entitled to termination pay or severance pay, they should approach an employment lawyer. It is important that they speak to an employment lawyer so that the lawyer can properly assess their case and determine how much that employee is owed. The difference between what the employer offers and what the employee is legally entitled to may be substantial.


The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.