Wrongful Dismissal Law is a subspecialty within Employment Law. It applies to situations in which an employee is fired by an employer.
In cases in which an employee holds a senior position or has been with a company for many years, the amount of termination pay can be substantial. The 2 issues that may come up in a Wrongful Dismissal matter are whether there was “just cause” for the termination and, if not, whether the amount of termination pay offered is sufficient (if the employer believed there was just cause for the termination, the amount offered would normally be zero).
In summary, Wrongful Dismissal Law states that an employer can terminate any employee’s employment at any time for any reason that is not against the law. A reason contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code would make a termination illegal. An employer’s obligation is to give the departing employee advance notice of the termination so that the employee has time to find a new job without an interruption in income. Since no employer wants to have an employee onsite who has been given notice of termination (and no employee would want to continue to come to work in such circumstances), 99.9% of the time the employer provides the departing employee with termination pay that is equal to what the employee would have earned during the notice period. In other words, if 6 months’ notice of termination was required, the employer will provide termination pay equal to 6 months’ earnings.
Because employment is a contract-based area of law, it is possible for an employee to do something that is so harmful to the company (or other employees) that it amounts to a breach of the employment contract by the employee. In that situation (which is rare), the employer is not obligated to give notice, or pay in lieu of notice, of termination.
Allegations of just cause are rare because judges much prefer not to see people unemployed while they look for a new job, in most Wrongful Dismissal cases the issue will be whether the amount of termination pay (pay in lieu of notice) represented a reasonable pre-estimate of the length of time it should take the particular departing employee to find a new job. In general, the longer an employee has been with a company, the older he or she is, and the more specific to the company’s business his or her job was, the longer it is going to take the employee to find an equivalent position and so the greater will be the termination pay he or she will be owed.
There is no simple formula for calculating termination pay. Every case is unique because every employee’s situation is different. You simply have to be a Wrongful Dismissal Lawyer to have a finger on the pulse of current trends in termination pay.
That is why whenever a senior or long-service employee loses his or her job, there is work for 2 Wrongful Dismissal Lawyers, one to represent the employee and the other to represent the company.