Fired, Dismissed or Laid Off? Find Out If Your Rights Have Been Violated with this 10-Point Checklist
As an employee in Quebec, your fundamental rights are protected by the province’s labour laws. These laws oblige employers to abide by certain rules and forbid dismissal without just cause. They also set down the criteria which permit dismissal as well as the steps your employer must take if you are to be laid off or dismissed.
If you have been fired or laid off and feel your rights may have been violated, it’s crucial to understand the laws related to your particular situation and determine what type of action you should take to ensure that you are treated fairly and compensated justly.
To find out if your rights may have been violated, read the following list.
Do any of these situations apply to you?
1. Did your employer give a reason for your termination? What did they say?
If you were fired without valid justification, your employer may have broken the law. In some cases, dismissal on the grounds of performance, skills, attitude or conduct may be unjust.
There are valid reasons for dismissal, such as the following:
- serious (gross) misconduct
- neglect in an aspect of duties or responsibilities
- incompetence in some aspect of your performance
- conduct incompatible with the employee’s duties or prejudicial to the employer’s business
- willful disobedience in important matters
2. Were you terminated or dismissed due to a discriminatory motive?
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no matter for how short or long of a period an employee has been with a company, they cannot be fired or dismissed for a discriminatory motive, such as based on race, nationality or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability, or based on a previous criminal conviction for which a pardon has been granted.
3. Were you terminated and told it was a lay off?
In some cases, a company may wish to let go of an employee, for instance during low business periods or budgetary constraints. If the employer does not have a just cause, however, they may be terminating that employee, calling it a layoff, and providing a conveniently misleading reason, such as financial reasons such as an economic downturn.
If such a case is brought before the court and the true motive for the dismissal is brought into question by your attorney, the court will examine the facts. For example, the judge may verify, for example, whether:
- the company is indeed in financial trouble or not
- they’ve hired anyone else subsequent to or around the time that they let you go
- any evidence that another motive, such as a personality clash, was the true reason for the termination of employment
4. Were you terminated without notice?
Unless you have been employed for less than 3 months, or have committed a serious fault, your employer must give you written notice before terminating your employment, allowing you the chance to look for other employment. If you are not given a proper notice for the termination, you may have grounds to take legal action against your employer.
This is also the case if you are on a fixed-term contract, unless your contract states otherwise.
5. Were you fired for a minor error or offense, with no prior warnings or disciplinary action on your record?
If you commit a major offense, such as fraud or theft, your employer can terminate your position without prior notice and is not obligated to pay you severance. However, if you are fired for a minor error or offense that is not so serious that it justifies termination, and you have an otherwise excellent record of performance, your employer may have terminated you unjustly. To be sure, speak to an attorney who can evaluate your specific case.
6. Were the terms of your employment contract breached by your dismissal?
When you were hired, you may have signed an employment agreement with your employer. If the terms of this agreement were breached, either as a result of your termination or in the way in which it occurred, you may have been dismissed without just cause, or have been dismissed in a manner which breached your contract. In both cases, you may have legal recourse against your employer.
7. Were you fired and issued a Record of Employment erroneously stating that you had “quit voluntarily”?
Employers have a duty to dismiss employees for reasons justifiable under the law. In some cases, an employer may try to make a dismissal look justifiable by issuing a Record of Employment that is inaccurate.
If your Record of Employment contains false information, you can turn to Service Canada to have it corrected. This is important should you wish to pursue legal action to claim unemployment benefits that you may be entitled to. For example, if your Record of Employment stated that you quit voluntarily and Service Canada investigated and modified this to state that you were fired, this information could be used to support your wrongful dismissal suit or insufficient severance case against your employer.
8. Were you fired or forced to resign because you refused to accept major changes to your job responsibilities or a reduction in salary?
In some cases, an employer may make fundamental and important changes to your roles and responsibilities and the general terms of employment without your consent or agreement, then force you to either accept this change or quit. In many cases, this may be a type of wrongful dismissal known as constructive dismissal and is illegal under the Act Respecting Labour Standards.
9. Have you been forced into retirement?
Even if you have reached or passed the age of entitlement to a pension or other government program, you may still be entitled to continue to work (unless there is a forced age of retirement in your contract). It is otherwise unlawful for an employer to suspend, or retire an employee on the grounds that he or she has reached or exceeded the retirement age.
If this has occurred, speak to a lawyer to find out aboutyour rights.
10. If you were not given written notice before your dismissal, did your employer pay you a compensatory indemnity?
The Act respecting labour standards requires an employer who does not provide proper or sufficient notice to pay the employee a compensatory indemnity based on their regular wage (excluding overtime) equal to the period of notice for which they were entitled.
If your employer failed to provide you with a notice before the dismissal, or an indemnity payment in lieu of notice, then you may be entitled to compensation. In making its ruling, the court may examine the following factors:
- duration of employment
- seniority of position
- availability of similar employment
- family circumstances
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have a valid legal claim against your employer.
Additionally, if you think one or more of the above circumstances may apply to you, but you are not sure, you should discuss your particular situation with an attorney to review your situation.
If you’ve been fired or dismissed and are wondering what to do, check out our post, Laid Off or Dismissed? 4 Steps to Follow.