Losing your job unexpectedly can be a financial and personal shock. You may be surprised if your employer fails to give you a valid reason for terminating your employment. Although an employer can fire an employee without providing a reason, some reasons are against the law. Also, in most cases, an employer in Ontario must give an employee a reasonable notice of employment termination.
If this happened to you, finding alternative employment might be challenging. Furthermore, you might have questions about the validity of your dismissal. There may be grounds for legal action if your employer failed to comply with employment laws related to notice or severance pay, or if he or she committed another action that might constitute wrongful dismissal.
Examples of wrongful dismissal
As an employee, the Employment Standards Act under which you have certain rights protects you. Your employer may not use any of the following circumstances as a reason for dismissal:
- Human rights: Your colour, race, ethnic origin, ancestry, citizenship, place of birth or religion may not be the reason for your dismissal. Your employer also can’t legally fire you because you have a mental or physical disability, an addiction, or because of your gender, sexual orientation or marital status. Firing you because you are pregnant or you plan to start a family is also against the law.
- Leave: Parental or pregnancy leave is part of your rights as an employee, and may not jeopardize your employment status. A dismissal while you are on LTD leave or upon your return from disability leave is also unlawful.
- Legal viewpoint: You may question the legality of your employer’s actions or ask him or her to comply with the law. He or she is not allowed to subsequently fire you for refusing to break environmental or other laws. You can report offences or illegal actions to the Ministry of Labour or an Employment Standards Officer. Furthermore, you may refuse to sign agreements that will jeopardize your employee rights. For example, some employees sign away their overtime rights for fear of dismissal.
- Workplace safety: As an employee, you reserve the right to insist on a safe workplace environment, and you are allowed to question conditions and even refuse to do jobs that will threaten your safety. You have a right to know the details of any hazardous chemicals to which you are exposed, and you may insist on the necessary personal protective equipment.
Standing up against an employer might be daunting, but you need not do it alone. An Ontario lawyer with experience in fighting for the rights of employees who face wrongful dismissal can provide the necessary guidance and support, ensure one’s rights are protected, and fight to obtain the full amount of compensation an employee is rightfully owed.