Alberta’s current recession has placed a lot of emphasis on one’s employment situation, and I’ve been fielding a lot of questions regarding wrongful dismissal claims as of late.
Generally speaking, employers can terminate employees’ positions with or without cause. With cause means that the employee has done something which is considered to end the employment contract – ie. egregious acts such as theft from the employer, failing to adequately perform work duties, etc. Termination without cause (which is the focus of this article) means that the employer is simply ending the employee’s position regardless of the employee’s conduct.
When an employee is fired without cause, an employer must give the employee adequate notice of the termination. The employee will continue to work during the notice period, as it is meant to provide time for the employee to find a new job before his or her old position ends. Alternatively, the employer can pay the employee in lieu of notice (severance pay). In this case, the employee’s position is terminated immediately, but the employee receives payment for the days he or she would have worked during the notice period.
Wrongful dismissal in the context of without cause termination occurs when an employee’s job is terminated and the employer fails to provide notice or payment in lieu of notice. In Alberta, the Employment Standards Code governs the minimum notice periods that must be given to employees, and The Saskatchewan Employment Act does the equivalent east of the border.
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