5 Questions to Ask When Looking for A Labour and Employment Attorney
To help you prepare for and get the most out of your first consult with an employment attorney, here are 5 questions you should ask without fail.
1. Has my employer violated my rights?
When evaluating the facts of your case as well as any relevant documents, the attorney you consult should be able to determine if your employer has violated your rights and/or broken any laws either in dismissing you or in the manner in which you were dismissed.
During your meeting, your attorney will examine the conditions of your situation, looking specifically to evaluate 2 types of scenarios:
1. Dismissal: Were you fired or dismissed due to:
- Your performance, skills, attitude or conduct
- Your refusal to accept major changes to your job responsibilities
2. Resignation: Did you resign due to:
- A reduction in salary
- Psychological or physical harassment from anybody at the organization
- Significant changes in work conditions that modify the description of your original position
- Economic conditions or other budgetary cuts
Your attorney will also evaluate whether any of the following have occurred, each of which may be in direct contravention to Quebec’s labour standards:
- You were laid off but the conditions resemble a termination of position.
- You were suspended for a certain reason and then notified that you were being fired for that same reason.
- You were fired and issued a Record of Employment falsely stating that you “quit voluntarily”.
2. Have you worked with similar cases before and what results have you achieved?
When selecting a labour and employment attorney, you want to be sure to work with someone who has dedicated him or herself to this area of practice and has achieved favourable results for clients in a position like yours. Do not be shy to ask if the attorney you are meeting with has worked with similar cases in the past and what kind of results were achieved.
A labour and employment attorney can inform you about previous work and cases in this area he or she has worked on by providing general details (no personal or company names) so as not to breach attorney-client privilege.
3. What compensation might I be entitled to?
When you meet with an attorney, he or she will work to understand the facts of your situation and evaluate your case. Based on his or her knowledge of the law, he or she should be able to:
- Tell you clearly if your situation warrants a claim against your employer for compensation or additional severance.
- Make an estimation as to what amount could be justifiably claimed based on the facts you have presented.
In order to perform a thorough and complete evaluation of your case, your attorney will require all relevant documents. Make sure to bring as many of the following as you can:
- Any documents issued to you by your employer such as a release form or work certificate
- All relevant correspondence such as letters, emails or SMS messages
- Pay stubs
- Performance evaluations
- A list of potential witnesses (such as colleagues or supervisors)
Please note that when evaluating your case, based on his or her knowledge of the law and knowledge of other similar cases and rulings in Quebec, an attorney can make recommendations as to the compensation to seek, but cannot make any guarantees that the court will rule in your favour.
4. What billing options do you offer?
Many attorneys and legal firms today offer flexible billing options that provide easier and more affordable access to the legal services needed to get the results you’re seeking. When looking for an attorney, make sure they are willing to consider your budget and offer you options adapted to your needs.
Also, make sure you know all the details of the billing method chosen and have those details in writing.
5. Do I also have To make a claim with the CNESST?
Salaried employees in Quebec are governed by the Commission des normes, de l’équité,
de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), the entity mandated by the government to oversee Quebec’s labour standards (although exceptions are often made to employees that occupy managerial roles).
When facing an employment-related issue, it is always wise to consult the CNESST. When you do, a caseworker will evaluate your particular circumstances and assesses your eligibility. If your case is accepted, a lawyer may then be assigned to represent you. While there is no direct cost, the CNESST may claim a portion of any amounts awarded by the employer to the employee.
The CNESST, however, usually limits its claims to unpaid salary, compensation for moral damages, and other statutory claims. A CNESST claim cannot be made to seek compensation for severance you may be owed beyond the maximum amounts as specified in the Act Respecting Labour Standards. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consult a labour and employment attorney. A labour and employment attorney can complete a full evaluation of your circumstances and provide information on how much compensation you may be entitled to from the CSNESST versus a civil action, along with recommendations for how to proceed.
One thing is certain – you cannot have 2 parallel suits led at the time, one by the CNESST and a second civil suit. This is known colloquially as “double dipping”, something your attorney should advise you of.