Jun 28

Suggestions for the Suddenly Unemployed from an Employment Lawyer

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When you have found yourself suddenly unemployed your next steps are critical to where you end up next and your quality of life going forward. Whether it is called a layoff, or a downsizing, unless you are unionized these words mean exactly the same thing: termination.

So, if you are found suddenly unemployed you should consider doing the following steps, while remembering that this blog post is in no way legal advice and I do strongly suggest contacting either myself or another lawyer licenced to practice in your jurisdiction to discuss your particular situation:

1. DO NOT PANIC
The fact of the matter is that your life is not over. Even Steve Jobs was laid off before returning to lead Apple again. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and adversity is the mother of innovation. Many people are in a better position after they are laid off, either because they are better paid, are working better hours, have a more exciting job or even just because they have better co-workers.

That being said, this time is a crucial point in your life. It is very important to have a successful launch into your future.

2. Write down what happened
It is important to sit down and record exactly what happened. Did you and your boss have an argument? Was there some sinister undertone to the termination? etc. Everyone’s memory fades over time and it is important to accurately recall the events. This is both for preserving your thoughts for the future, and also for protection in later claims, potentially from your employer. From a legal perspective, I have seen many clients who are hurt by fading memories. Recording is self-protection!

It is a good idea to sign, and date every note you write.

3. Create a Plan
This is the time to thoroughly analyze what you were doing, and what you want to be doing. Do you want another job in the same field? Perhaps you have always hoped for a job in a different field. Maybe you have dreamed of starting your own business.

Take your time to think your next steps. I find the pros/cons method to be the most useful, that is, take each option and write out all of the benefits and negatives for them. Afterwards carefully weigh your options.

4. Keep a Job Application Diary
It is important to keep a strict diary of the time spent looking for jobs and of the sent applications. First, this is useful because if you are collecting Employment Insurance you will be required to prove that you have been job searching.

Secondly, in case there is a legal claim, made either by you or by your previous employer you want to be able to prove that you worked hard to get a new job quickly. In other words, you want to prove that you acted reasonably.

5. Contact an Employment Lawyer
Employment law is a complex area of law which involves the interaction of signed contracts, employment standards legislation and the common law as interpreted by judges.

Very often terms of employment contracts are invalid. Terms which are often invalid include:
Notification periods
Whether someone is an Employee or an Independent contractor
Non-compete clauses
Non-solicitation clauses
Releases signed by employees when terminated

Consulting an employment lawyer is the best way to determine where you stand and if your employer still owes you any money. Employees are often owed money from vacation time, overtime, uncompensated hours, or notice entitlements. In my practice, I would estimate that over 80% of the employees unilaterally terminated are owed money by their employer .

Many employment lawyers (including myself) offer free consultations. To find a lawyer in your area that offers a free consultation you can often ask your local law society or bar association (in Ontario, where I am, the online form can be found here).

Only an employment lawyer can help you determine your rights and if your previous employer owes you money!

6. Don’t be scared to demand what you are owed
Many employees are scared to demand what they are owed. However, if your employer owes you money, then that is your right. Having more finances will help you to “launch” yourself into a new career path more than a marginally more mediocre reference letter, so don’t waste your resources!

These are my suggestions for the suddenly unemployed. If you are in Ontario, take the plunge and contact Andrew Monkhouse, for your free consultation today!