Top five myths about employment law
At Labour Rights Law, all we do is employment, labour, and human rights law. Since we opened our doors in 2013, we’ve helped hundreds of employees and small businesses negotiate tough workplace issues in Coquitlam and the Tri-Cities area, across BC, and the rest of Canada.
Here are some of the most common misunderstandings people have when they first talk to us about their employment, labour, and human rights issues.
1) When I get fired, I’m only owed what the Employment Standards Act says I’m owed.
This is one of the most common misunderstandings out there. If your employment contract states that you’re owed only employment standards minimums, like the amounts under the Employment Standards Act in BC or the Canada Labour Code for federally regulated workers, then you’re likely only entitled to that. But if your employment contract doesn’t say that, then you could be entitled to much more. “Common law reasonable notice” can amount to months of compensation, depending on a number of factors, including your length of service, age, and position. Once, I had to write an employer to inform them that they owed over 15 months of compensation to a long-term employee that they’d laid off without cause. The employer had mistakenly believed, based on what they read in the Employment Standards Act, that they would only owe 8 weeks’ salary.
2) Employers must have a reason to fire you; they can’t just fire you for no reason.
Employers are not allowed to fire you for a number of reasons by law, such as a prohibited ground under human rights legislation, or for retaliation under workers compensation legislation. But, assuming the employer hasn’t broken a law elsewhere, employers can fire you for no reason at all – so long as they give you proper notice or pay in lieu of notice. To find out how much notice you’d be owed, you should see an employment and labour lawyer.
3) If my employer fires me for cause, I’m not entitled to Employment Insurance or “EI.” It is true that you will not qualify for EI if it’s found that your employer had just cause to fire you. However, your employer doesn’t decide that for the purposes of EI; an adjudicator does. So if your ROE says you’ve been fired for cause, you can still apply for EI and explain the situation. Often, an employer will think they’ve established cause to fire someone when, in fact, they haven’t. This can mean that the employee is not only owed severance or notice or pay in lieu of notice, but that an adjudicator finds that they qualify for EI as well!
4) Once I leave my employer, I don’t owe them anything. Employees have obligations to their employer at common law and, in some cases, because of the contract that was signed. Many of these obligations continue to be in effect after the employee has left their employment. Common obligations include keeping information about your former employer or its clients confidential, or an obligation to avoid contacting your former employer’s clients or employees. And yes, employees can and do get sued for breaking these obligations!
5) If my employer says I have to sign something, I have to sign it. You have a general duty as an employee to follow the reasonable directions of your employer. However, if your employer is demanding that you agree to something about how you’re paid, or agree to big changes to your duties, you should go talk to an employment and labour lawyer. The courts have often commented about the disproportionate power that employers have over their employees, and you should not allow yourself to be pressured into signing something you don’t agree with or understand, or think is unfair. Most employers will give you time to go see a lawyer – and even extend deadlines for your signature that they have given you.
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.