Employment Law

Employment issues come in many different forms. Legal issues can arise at the beginning, middle or end of an employment relationship. Knowing your legal rights and options is an effective way to making sure that these issues are addressed effectively. As a general rule, “employment law” refers to employment rights and obligations in non-unionized workplaces, and the term “labour law” refers to unionized workplaces.

Negotiating an Employment Contract

At the start of the relationship, it is important to understand the terms of the employment contract: what does it say about things such as non-competition, confidential information, and, importantly, the amount of notice or severance payable on termination? Many employment offers are not “take-it-or-leave-it” and these clauses can have a big effect on an employee’s job options and financial well being when s/he eventually leaves the employer. Note that the ability to negotiate individual contracts does not apply in a unionized environment, where individual employees are bound by a collective agreement.

If you are about to start in a new position, or if you are an employer about to hire someone, we may be able to assist you in preparing and negotiating a contract that will better protect your interests.

Harassment and Discrimination in the Employment Relationship

Employers typically have an obligation to provide a safe and non-discriminatory work environment. This does not simply extend to physical safety. In some cases employees may have a claim with the BC Human Rights Tribunal for compensation for harassment and discrimination, or even a common law claim for damages, awarded by a court.

If you believe you have been a victim of harassment or discrimination, we can advise you of your rights and help bring the appropriate claim.

Wrongful Dismissal and Reasonable Notice

In non-unionized workplaces an employer has no obligation to continue to employ a person, even if that employee has done nothing wrong. If an employer does not have cause (a justifiable reason, such as theft or gross insubordination) to terminate a person’s employment it must provide that employee with a notice period or severance pay in lieu of a notice period. The amount of notice required varies from employee to employee and is based on a wide variety of factors, including age, seniority and length of service.

If you have been dismissed and are not sure about whether the offer made to you is fair, please contact us for an opinion. We have acheived considerable success in advocating for our clients and getting them more compensation than was originally offered to them.

Constructive Dismissal

Sometimes, an employer will change the nature of a job without the employee’s consent. This may mean that the employee earns less money or has a different role in the organization. Many employers and employees are unaware of the law that applies in this situation and think that if an employer is restructuring that it can eliminate positions without compensation, or that if the employee accepts another job in the organization that the employee has no claim; however, that is often not the case, and if this has occurred the employee may have a claim for what is called “constructive dismissal”. Effectively, a court can find that the employee has been fired without being told. As a result, the employee is entitled to reasonable notice or severance just as if the employee had been given written notice of his/her termination.

If you believe that your job is being changed unreasonably, or that your employer is trying to force you take an alternative position that you don’t really want to, please contact us. We have experience explaining constructive dismissal principles to employers, as well as bringing claims for severance on behalf of employees who have been constructively dismissed.

Employment issues can be difficult for both the employer and the employee, and we are here to help. We will provide you with your options and advise you of your rights. We have a proven track record of helping clients get the results they want.

To speak with an employment lawyer, contact Jasmine Tsang.