Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top 7 Tips for Getting Fired Like a Pro

BY SIMRAN BAKSHI, ASSOCIATE LAWYER


It is never a pleasant experience to learn that your employment is being terminated, no matter what the circumstances may be.

Nonetheless, there is a right way of handling your dismissal. If you are careful in the way you handle your exit, it is possible to protect your legal interests and comfortably make the transition to the next chapter of your career and life.

Here are our top seven tips for getting fired like a pro:

      1.  Leave your job with grace and composure

Perhaps the best advice anyone could ever give you is to take a moment, breathe and not panic.

While it may be momentarily tempting to burst into tears, or to delete all of the files you've been working on or to finally tell your boss exactly what you really think of him or her, resist the temptation.

There is very little value in lashing out at your former employer, and in fact, in many cases, doing so will likely make the situation far worse for you. While your conduct following the termination of your employment typically does not have any bearings on the reasons for the dismissal itself, there have been some cases where Courts have considered post-termination misconduct in determining whether an Employer ultimately had cause to terminate.  

On the flip side, presenting yourself in a professional manner, even in the moments after you've been dismissed can go a long way. Remember, your objective may likely be to find another job within the same industry, and your now-former employer might be one of the best sources for such references and even job referrals.

Don't be surprised by the fact that your employer may wish for the termination to take effect immediately, and may even escort you to your desk and off the work premises. While this can undoubtedly be an upsetting and embarrassing experience, try not to take it personally. Bear in mind that such workplace policies were developed to ensure that there are no breaches of security, and not to make publicly shame you. Take your time to pack your belongings, and if appropriate and permitted, to say your goodbyes to your colleagues.

Of course, if your former goes too far in acting inappropriately during your termination, you may (in some extreme cases) have additional remedies and even be entitled to added compensation.


2.  Don't sign anything!


More often than not, an employer will inform you of the termination of your employment at a meeting attended by your manager and a human resources representative.

They will likely come prepared with a Letter of Termination, which may or may not set out a severance proposal, and include a Release.

It is very important that you do not sign anything without first consulting with an employment law lawyer. Signing a release will in most cases bar you from bringing any further legal claims against your employer relating to your termination.

If your employer does offer you a severance package, it may impose a deadline by which to receive your response.  Keep in mind, that regardless of whether you accept this package by the deadline or not, your employer remains obligated to provide your minimum notice and or severance entitlements as set out by the applicable employment legislation.  You may also have additional rights to common law notice by bringing a wrongful dismissal claim.

Don't rush into signing anything, as your entitlements may be far greater than what is being offered to you in this severance package. Your lawyer can review your employer's proposal with you to help you determine whether it is reasonable in the circumstances.

While you may feel pressured by the looming deadline, keep in mind that an employer will quite often agree to a reasonable extension in time so that you can properly review the offer, understand its implications and consider your legal options.

And besides, you don't work for them any more. They don't get to give you arbitrary deadlines any more.  


3.  Get legal advice and carefully weigh your legal options


It is important that you seek legal guidance upon your termination to discuss whether you should consider taking legal action against your former employer.

A lawyer will review your employment history, the context leading to your dismissal, and any severance offers that have been proposed to determine:

(i)                 Whether it is a good idea to attempt to negotiate and/or bring a claim against your former employer;
(ii)               The nature and potential value of such a claim;
(iii)             Which forum you should consider proceeding in;
(iv)              The merits of your claim, and the legal obstacles to be aware of;
(v)                The general process, time frame and legal costs involved;

Be prepared with a copy of your termination letter as well as a copy of your original and most recent employment contract. These documents will be very telling to your lawyer with respect to what your entitlements may be.

While you certainly do not want to rush into taking any legal action, it is important that you consult with a lawyer in a timely manner as there are limitation periods, in other words deadlines, applicable to when you may be able to bring a claim, that vary depending on the nature of your claims.


4. Don't ever file an Ontario Employment Standards complaint before you have consulted with your lawyers

This part is simple. 

Under section 97(2) of Ontario's Employment Standards Act, an employee who files a Employment Standards complaint alleging an entitlement to termination pay or severance pay may not commence a civil proceeding for wrongful dismissal that relates to the same termination or severance of employment.

In other words, if you go the Employment Standards route, you give up your ability to claim damages in court for wrongful dismissal.  That could cause a significant loss of your entitlement to compensation, particularly if you were a longer-term employee.  

So get qualified legal advice first.
  
5.  Start your job hunt 

The very purpose of a severance package that may be offered to you is to support and assist you through the transition period, as you look for a new job.

It is important that you appreciate that if you make a claim for damages for wrongful dismissal, you have a duty at law to take reasonable steps to look for new employment to try to mitigate your losses.  Depending on the circumstances, starting your own business, or going back to school may also be considered reasonable steps to mitigate your losses.

Bear in mind that since the objective of severance payments is to compensate you for your income losses during a reasonable notice period, if you are successful in finding a new job and mitigating your losses, the income that you earn may be deducted from what your former employer would otherwise have to pay you.

6.  Keep detailed records of your job search

Given its importance in your claim, it is best practice to keep records and logs of your job search, including the dates on which you search, the hours you spent looking, the websites you have visited, the recruiters or employment agencies you consult and details and documentation showing all jobs yo apply for and all interviews granted.  

Keep copies or screenshots of all job applications and cover letters you send, rejection letters you receive and all job offers advanced to you, even if you don't accept them.

7.  Take advantage of resources available
Thankfully, there are resources available to assist you both financially and emotionally through your dismissal.

Perhaps the most well known resource for those who qualify is Employment Insurance ("EI"), which can provide temporary financial assistance.

Again, it is important to remember that your employment law claim is meant to compensate you for actual wages lost during a reasonable notice period.  As a result, if your former employer subsequently agrees to compensate you for a period of time during which you have already received EI benefits, you may be required to pay back the EI dollars that you have received. 

This is commonly referred to as the EI clawback.

The Ontario government has a number of programs in place to assist employees who have been dismissed from their jobs transition to new roles:
  • Through the Adjustment Advisory Program, you can meet with a support group and with an adviser to discuss how best to land on your feet following a company layoff or plant closure. For more information, visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/adjusting-after-job-loss
Finally, as part of your severance package, your former employer may agree to pay for private services that provide vocational counseling and outplacement.

There is a silver lining that comes with your dismissal from employment. You are presented with an opportunity to start a new chapter in your life that better reflects your career goals and overall life objectives. Consulting with a lawyer, financial adviser and career counselor can often help you make this transition more seamless. 

- Simran Bakshi, Associate Lawyer, Toronto


Visit our Toronto Law Office website: www.wiselaw.net

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