Termination during a Probationary Period

According to the BC Employment Standards Act, an employee who is terminated without cause is entitled to severance pay or a period of notice based on their years of service.  The Act specifically provides that Employees in their first three months of employment can be terminated with or without cause at any time, and without severance.  Most employers consider this to be a three month probation period during which the Employee’s suitability for continued employment will be assessed.

 

In addition, many employers will include a probationary period of a similar nature into a written employment contract.  Although such a provision will typically be enforceable, it will not give the employer carte blanche to fire at will.  The law in British Columbia has developed so as to place an obligation on the employer who terminates during a probation period to do so in good faith.  In the recent case of Ly v. British Columbia (Interior Health Authority), the BC Supreme Court set out requirements placed on an employer who chooses to terminate during a period of probation.  In tis case, the plaintiff was hired in a managerial role and was terminated after approximately two months of employment.  The court set out the following factors to be considered in determining whether the termination was made in good faith.

 

1)      whether the probationary employee was made aware of the basis for the employer’s assessment of suitability before, or at the commencement of, employment;

2)      whether the employer acted fairly and with reasonable diligence in assessing suitability;

3)      whether the employee was given a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate his suitability for the position; and

4)      whether the employer’s decision was based on an honest, fair and reasonable assessment of the suitability of the employee, including not only job skills and performance but also character, judgment, compatibility, and reliability.

 

In this case, even though the employee was terminated during the probationary period, the court found that they were entitled to reasonable notice damages because the employer had not provided the employee with a fair opportunity to demonstrate their suitability.

 

Before terminating an employee during a probationary period, it is important that the employer turn their mind to the above principles, as failure to do so could result in a court award made against the employer.  Similarly, for employees, the mere fact that the termination took place during a probationary period will not necessarily bar a claim for reasonable notice damages.

Should you need any assistance with this area, or have further questions, please contact us. We are here to help you navigate tricky situations such as these ones and get you the best possible outcome.

Employment Law Part 2-NEW VIDEO!

 

Hi, my name is Eric Pedersen I’m a lawyer for Velletta and Company practicing employment law. Today we’re going to talk about another employment law topic which is constructive dismissal. Now the constructive dismissal is really just a fancy way to say, “I quit” to your employer to also at the same time exercise and enforce all of the rights that you would have if you were an employee who was fired without cause.

The general rule of thumb in British Columbia is that an employee who quits their position isn’t going to be entitled to any severance pay or any notice they’re walking away from the job and that’s on them. But constructive dismissal is a very specific category in the law that allows an employee who quits to bring a claim against the employer for severance. The idea is that although the employer hasn’t fired the employee they have by their conduct in the way that they might have changed the employee’s workplace duties changed their employment. Such to the point that they’ve pretty much been fired and have all of the rights of a fired employee.

Not every minor change that an employer might make to an employee’s employment contractor to their workplace will result in an employee having the rights of a constructively dismissed employee. A really obvious example would be if you were a CEO one day and then you showed up the next day you were demoted to janitor. Well you haven’t been fired but you have pretty much been fired.

So you have all of this same rights to claim for severance as an employee who was fired but not all cases are black and white. And there’s a lot of grey area. It’s important that you do consult a lawyer before exercising the option of constructive dismissal.

 

W. Eric Pedersen is a lawyer practising in Velletta & Company’s civil litigation department. Mr. Pedersen has worked with the civil litigation department to achieve successful outcomes for individuals and businesses, appearing in Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and the British Columbia Court of Appeal. His practice is focussed primarily on the following areas: Personal injury and motor vehicle claims, Employment and Human Rights Law, Commercial litigation, Real estate litigation, General insurance litigation, Disability insurance litigation and General civil litigation.

Employment Law | Wrongful Dismissal

Our professional Eric Pedersen is well-versed in employment law. In this video, Eric covered the topic of wrongful dismissal and what to do if you think you have been wrongfully dismissed at your place of work.

 

 

Hi my name, is Eric Pedersen and I’m a lawyer practicing employment law at Velletta & Company. Today I’m going to talk to you about one topic in employment law which is wrongful dismissal. There are a lot of misconceptions about what a wrongful dismissal is and the way to think about it is a wrongful dismissal is a firing or a termination where the employer fails to get the proper amount of notice. Or severance.

The reality is that employer is permitted in British Columbia to fire anybody at any time. For almost any reason as long as they give them the proper amount of severance pay or notice. There is one major footnote to that which is B.C Human Rights Code. There are 13 protected grounds in the human rights code that you can’t base a dismissal on. Those are things like age, gender, gender expression, race, religion and country of origin and so on.

But back to the reasons for dismissal: it doesn’t actually matter. It doesn’t really factor into any court’s decision (unless the employer is alleging that they have cause to fire you), why the employer might have terminated you. They are allowed to terminate you for the dumbest reasons at all! It may be that you remind them of their fourth-grade school teacher or you just rub them the wrong way or you’re not a good fit. What matters is that you’re given the proper amount of severance pay. Severance pay or pay in lieu of notice. We’re going to be talking in a bit in another video as to what the proper amount of severance that an employee can expect termination is. All terminations are a difficult process. And it’s often important to know your rights before signing off on the release or if your employer before terminating an employee for any reason. Always get legal advice.

Calculating Reasonable Notice – Breaks in Service

Non-unionized employees in British Columbia who are terminated by the employer without cause are entitled to reasonable notice of the termination.  Reasonable notice can be given as pay in lieu of notice, as working notice, or as a combination of both.

These employees are entitled to statutory pay or working notice pursuant to the Employment Standards Act, and unless they are bound by an employment agreement that says otherwise, they may also be entitled to additional “common law” reasonable notice that is enforceable by the courts.

An employee’s reasonable notice period is usually calculated in weeks or months.  In calculating an employee’s entitlement to reasonable notice, the courts will consider the length of service of the employee, their age, and their ability to find other work.  The employee’s length of service tends to be a highly determinative factor, but in some cases, disputes may arise as to how the employee’s length of service is to be calculated.  It is typical of many long service employment relationships that there will be breaks in the employee’s service.  Typically, an employee will want their entire employment history counted when determining the length of service, while the employer is interested in minimizing their severance obligations.

In some cases, the court will ignore a break in service when calculating reasonable notice.  To make such a determination, the court will consider the length of the break relative to the length of service, the conduct of the employer in respect of the break (i.e., was the employee temporarily forced out of employment by the employer), as well as any evidence that shows that the employer intended to treat the employee’s service as continuous.  Typically, if the employee willingly leaves their job for another and is away for a considerable time before returning, the employment will not be considered as continuous.

If you are a long-serving employee who has been terminated from your employment, it is crucial that you seek legal advice.  An employer seeking to terminate a long serving employee should also be cautious as issues such these, as the amounts at stake as pay in lieu of notice could be substantial.

 

W. Eric Pedersen is a lawyer practising in Velletta & Company’s civil litigation department. Mr. Pedersen has worked with the civil litigation department to achieve successful outcomes for individuals and businesses, appearing in Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and the British Columbia Court of Appeal

Enforceability of Non-Compete Clauses in an Employment Contract

As an employment lawyer who represents small business as well as employees, I am often asked to advise on the contents of a written employment contract.  Many of the key provisions in an employment contract are concerned with what happens after the termination of employment.  This article deals with “restrictive covenants”, and more specifically, what are sometimes called “non-compete” clauses.

Read moreEnforceability of Non-Compete Clauses in an Employment Contract

Termination of Employment and The Duty to Mitigate

Employment lawyers Victoria BC

If an employee in British Columbia is not unionized, his or her employer can terminate that employee for reasons that range from legally justifiable to vaguely outrageous. A critical determination is whether the reasons for termination are “just cause” for dismissal. If a dismissal is for just cause, the employee is not entitled to notice or severance; if a dismissal is “without cause”, the employer has an obligation to provide reasonable notice or severance to the employee.

Read moreTermination of Employment and The Duty to Mitigate

Wrongful Dismissal

Employment law Victoria BC

This outline is selective and topical, for discussion purposes only. It is not legal advice. Do not apply any of the information set out in this outline prior to discussing it with your lawyer. Velletta & Company represents both employers and employees. This article contains information to assist you with understanding your rights.

Read moreWrongful Dismissal

Has Someone Interfered With My Human Rights?

Human rights lawyer Victoria, BC

Everyone has an intuitive sense of what their human rights are, but it’s often difficult to determine if one’s human rights have been interfered with in a way that would be punishable or compensable. When an incident occurs, people often do not have the information they need to determine what they can or should do. This article is intended as a general introduction to the human rights complaint process in British Columbia.

Read moreHas Someone Interfered With My Human Rights?