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Avoid wrongful termination claims -- obtain legal counsel

Employees in British Columbia must be treated fairly, during employment and upon termination of employment. Dealing with a wrongful termination lawsuit can be costly, and it is often preventable. Many employers seek legal counsel just before terminating employees.  However, employers may be able to avoid difficult termination lawsuits by reaching out to legal counsel even earlier. When employees are hired, their employment contracts should detail the employment terms and clearly set out both parties' obligations arising upon termination.

Canadian employment legislation prescribes each province's minimum termination standards, particularly with respect to matters such as termination pay. While smaller details may differ from province to province, each jurisdiction has laws that cover minimum notice of termination or payment in lieu of termination. Unlike employment laws south of the border, Canada does not have "at will" employment; instead, there is termination with cause and termination without cause.

When an employee is found guilty of serious misconduct, his or her employment can be terminated immediately "with cause". If the termination does not involve misconduct, the termination must be without cause. An employer can also terminate employment at any time and for any reason "without cause", so long as minimum employment standards and human rights laws are not violated. However, it is important to understand that a termination "without cause" requires that the employer provide notice of termination and/or payment in lieu of notice pursuant to the provincial minimum standards laws.

When it comes to ending an employer-employee relationship, it is never a good idea to do it in the heat of the moment. Acting in haste, even in the circumstances of a "without cause" termination, could have dire consequences, up to and including litigation. For that reason, it is always sensible to seek legal counsel to discuss the most appropriate way to proceed. Having a lawyer with experience in all the different aspects of British Columbia employment law can be an invaluable asset for any employer.

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