If your employer has fired you or laid you off or is breaking the employment contract, don’t let the fear of legal fees stop you from seeing a lawyer! In our experience, 95% of wrongful dismissal matters are settled with the employee receiving a cash settlement during negotiations after a demand letter from a lawyer has been sent – without attendance at a trial, or the employee even filing the claim in court.
For example, in a recent case we had, the employer had given our client two weeks’ notice that it would substantially change his pay from a monthly salary to an hourly wage. This change to our client’s employment was “constructive dismissal” at common law. In other words, the employer broke the employment contract and it was likely our client would have been successful if he’d sued for that breach of contract. Given our client’s age, education and length of service, it was our view that our client was entitled to 18 months’ salary for pay in lieu of reasonable notice. Following delivery of our demand letter saying just that, the employer backed down, reinstated our client’s monthly salary, and recognized that it owed him reasonable notice. Like most of our cases, our client got a settlement and the potential claim ended there – along with any further legal costs.
Even if your claim isn’t settled right away like that example, in our experience, most of the 5% of wrongful dismissal claims that result in the employee filing a claim in court are settled sometime before trial, after examination for discovery (i.e. where witnesses are questioned under oath by lawyers without a judge).
In fact, in our experience, less than 2% of wrongful dismissal claims go to trial! Out of literally hundreds of wrongful dismissal matters I’ve handled in the last 20 years, only two have gone to trial. Even those cases, however, were resolved through a summary trial, i.e. a shorter, less expensive trial. A carefully prepared summary trial application can be resolved in one day or, if cause is alleged (i.e. the employer had a right to fire the employee with no notice), typically two days.
Summary trials are pretty typical for wrongful dismissal claims. As the Supreme Court of Canada and the BC Courts have long recognized, most wrongful dismissal claims are well suited for resolution through an expedited summary trial process. In most wrongful dismissal litigation claims, the material facts are not in dispute, e.g., the employee’s age; length of employment; qualifications; nature of employment responsibilities; availability of similar employment in regard to the employee’s education, experience, and training. That means that in wrongful dismissal claims, there’s less to argue about than in many other kinds of actions – and legal costs are less.
If you’re thinking about suing your employer, but are concerned about the costs, the best thing you can do is to talk to an employment and labour lawyer about your concerns. At Labour Rights Law, we pride ourselves on explaining your rights, the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and your options — including the potential legal costs at every step of the way.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.
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