Unfortunately, many employees do not have their severance package reviewed by an employment lawyer upon being laid off or fired. Only an employment lawyer will be able to assess your severance package based on your of your rights and entitlements.
1. If your severance package seems low, it probably is.
Employers often get legal advice prior to terminating employees, including on how to employ a specific strategy. A severance package could be low as a means of pushing forward a corporate strategy waiting for those employees who hire a lawyer to negotiate a better package.
2. Your employer is attempting to limit you to the minimums under the Employment Standards Act.
If an employer only offers you the minimum entitlement under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), by relying on a termination clause in your employment contract there is a chance that the termination provisions contained in your employment contract do not properly limit your entitlements. If the termination provisions are not properly drafted or incorporated into your employment contract, you will be entitled to common law’s reasonable notice, which is much higher than the minimums prescribed by the Employment Standards Act.
3. The company is asking you to sign a release.
A “release” is a legal document that would prevent you from bringing a claim against the employer at a future date. Some employers give employees very little time to consult with an employment lawyer, applying additional pressure on laid off or fired employees. Speaking with a lawyer is the best way to understand what rights you are giving up in exchange for signing the release.
4. The company has not offered to extend your benefits.
Depending on you and your family’s particular situation the loss of employment benefits, which would otherwise have covered you for prescriptions, therapy, dental visits and a disability leave can be a devastating blow. An employment lawyer can help advise whether the loss of benefits can be claimed during a notice period.
Also, if the termination clause in your employment contract does not stipulate an extension of benefits (for example, medical and dental benefits as well as vacation pay), it may be unenforceable, and therefore invalid. An employment lawyer will be able to advise on this issue.
5. The employee is close to retirement age.
The courts look to many factors to determine the proper amount of reasonable notice at common law for an employee who has been laid off or fired. Age is one of them, but seniority, tenure, remuneration and availability of similar employment will also be taken into account. An employment lawyer will know how a court weighs these factors in calculating an amount of reasonable notice and what severance amounts are appropriate.
6. The company has engaged in human rights violations or discriminatory conduct.
Employers cannot terminate an employee on the basis of a protected ground such as age, gender, colour, race or background. An employment lawyer will be able to advise if your claim of discrimination has merit and whether it is worthwhile for you to pursue damages against your employer.
7. You were terminated while you were on maternity, paternal, sick or disability leave.
There are laws in Ontario that protect an employee’s status while they are on maternity or paternity leave, or on short-term or long-term disability from their workplace. If an employer terminates your employment during one of these periods, an employment lawyer may be able to help increase the amount of your severance package. If a decrease in your ability to get employment insurance is a concern, an employment lawyer can also come up with a strategy to help preserve or accrue your ability to receive EI.
8. The company has not recognized the entire length of your service.
Sometimes companies undergo amalgamations, mergers, and rebranding initiatives which could impact how long Human Resources believes you have been employed by the company. Employers can attempt to rely on these imperfect records and processes to present the argument that you have only worked at a company for a certain amount of time. An employment lawyer may be able to help you get around these arguments in order to enforce a severance package that properly reflects your length of service.
9. Peace of mind.
An employment lawyer can give you the peace of mind knowing that your employer either has to increase the severance package or that your employer has respected your rights and entitlements at law. Only an employment lawyer can offer this kind of peace of mind during this stressful situation.
We Can Help Maximize Your Severance Package
At Monkhouse Law, we specialize in reviewing severance packages and pursuing claims for a larger entitlement. The lawyers at Monkhouse Law will review the facts of your case, including a balancing of the various factors at play, in order to advise you of what your severance package should be.
If you are looking to have your severance package reviewed, please contact Monkhouse Law. We offer a free half hour consultation over the phone.