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Wrongful Dismissal can be a confusing term

Employees in Vancouver who were dismissed might be unsure about their legal rights. Confusion about the term wrongful termination or dismissal exists in British Columbia and across Canada. Before taking steps against an employer, the employee should understand what the term means.

Under employment law, Canadian employers may terminate an employee’s employment in one of the following two ways:

  • Termination for cause, typically without notice and no severance package or pay; or
  • Dismissal without cause, typically involving notice or payment in lieu of notice.

The notice or pay in lieu of notice that an employee is entitled to receive upon dismissal without cause may be set out in a written employment contract. Where the contract does not enforceably set out the notice period, an employee may be entitled to what is called “reasonable notice”. Determining whether the notice period or amount of pay in lieu of notice (often called severance) is sufficient is not a clear-cut issue.

The amount of “reasonable notice” required in a case depends on factors including the employee’s years of service, age and employment. Where an employer provides a period of notice or severance package that is insufficient, a cause of action for wrongful dismissal may exist.

Constructive vs. wrongful dismissal

Confusion often exists in understanding the difference between constructive dismissal and wrongful dismissal. Constructive dismissal may occur when the employer alters the employment terms in a way that, in effect, terminates the employment contract. In these circumstances, an employee may be entitled to seek the same remedies as in a wrongful dismissal case.

Employees in Vancouver or elsewhere in British Columbia who believe their employers acted unfairly in the dismissal process may have questions about their legal rights. Challenging an employer in court is best handled by an experienced employment law lawyer. Before accepting a severance offer or signing any release, it makes good sense to seek the support of legal counsel.

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