According to a CBC article which you can read here, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio-Canada will be firing 10 per cent of its workforce. The article cites a $125 million budget shortfall that requires the aforementioned cuts to take place.
Only recently we wrote a blog about job cuts in the banking sector. You can refresh your memory about this issue here. The trend is clear: with the strained economy, cuts from major corporations – both federal and provincial – are becoming an ongoing reality.
What should you do if your employer tells you that your job has been eliminated?
If a CBC employee has had their job “eliminated,” then they should approach an employment lawyer to determine if they have been wrongfully dismissed. Wrongful dismissal occurs when an employee has been terminated by their employer without reasonable notice of the termination. Wrongful dismissal is a legal term that protects employees from being fired by their by employer without proper notice of the termination, payment or a combination thereof by the employer. Where wrongful dismissal is present, the employee may be entitled to compensation. This applies to non-unionized employees, as those who are unionized would have to go through their union to deal with issues surrounding their dismissal.
Compensation may include basic statutory minimal termination payouts as well as entitlements under at common law. When assessing one’s entitlements at common law, the courts will typically look at the employees’ age, length of service, the character of the employee’s employment (i.e. what their role was) and the likelihood of securing a job in the future. Likewise, the employee’s employment agreement and any termination clauses would have to be carefully scrutinized to determine if the employee’s rights were lawfully limited by a dismissal formula.
An employee that has been wrongfully dismissed is entitled to pay in lieu of reasonable notice which would consist of all entitlements the employee would have been eligible for but for their termination, such as bonuses, pay increases, etc. More often, however, employees are also entitled to what is colloquially referred to as a “severance package.”
The term “severance,” “severance package” or “severance pay” is commonly a source of confusion for a lot of employees. For instance, “termination pay” and “severance pay” are often used interchangeably, when in fact these terms are not the same concepts.
Severance pay is a payment made to a dismissed employee who qualifies for the payment of severance under statute, including under the federal Canada Labour Code, 1985 (“Code”) such as would be the case with fired employees from CBC. Non-unionized employees dismissed from the CBC are advised to seek legal counsel to ensure that their severance package reflects their statutory entitlements.
Review of termination or severance packages and employment agreements
The best thing that an employee can do once they are dismissed would be to approach an employment lawyer with all their paperwork including both their employment agreement if they have one and any termination or severance package that they employer gave to the employee. An employment lawyer will specifically review the documents and assess the fairness of them on the basis of various legal principles. In this context, 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 employment agreement or employment contract to determine if the employee is entitled to common law notice in addition to their statutory entitlements. The employer can only lawfully limit an employee’s entitlement to 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, which is usually a good thing for the employee. Finally, the employment lawyer will discuss the facts leading to the employee’s dismissal taking into account the employee’s treatment, any potential human rights concerns, etc.
The employment lawyer will then proceed to assist the dismissed employee in determining what the next steps should be now that the dismissed employee has this new information in their arsenal. For instance, should the dismissed employee accept the terms of the termination or severance package? Should they retain an employment lawyer to negotiate with their former employer for better terms under the termination or severance package? Should they simply sue or bring a claim against their former employer for constructive dismissal? These are all questions that the employment lawyer can help the dismissed employee answer.
Talk to an employment lawyer
In short, if you happen to be one of the many non-unionized employees cut in the wave of downsizing and job cuts at CBC (or anywhere else), we would invite you to give Zeilikman Law a call to review your severance or termination package. Do not rush to sign it because you may be giving up substantial compensation. You should also know that the “acceptance deadline” referenced in your dismissal letter is artificial and you are under no legal duty to sign the package by the requested deadline unless, of course, you actually wish to accept the terms.