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Termination – What Are Your Rights?

Getting fired is no fun. No matter what age you are, it can be totally devastating. You may immediately question why the decision was made and feel blindsided or panicked. Maybe it was something you saw it coming and now have to deal with the reality. 

However it comes, you should know your rights. Especially if you feel that the termination was unjust and against what is written into Alberta’s Employment Standards.  

Here is what you should know about being terminated from a job. 


How Much Notice Does an Employer Have to Give?

Your employer must give you a written notice and they have to ensure that you receive it. You can find an outline of what needs to be included in the termination notice here. The amount of notice an employer must give depends on how long you have worked at the job. 

  • 1 week if they have worked more than 90 days but less than 2 years
  • 2 weeks if they have worked at least 2 years but less than 4 years
  • 4 weeks if they have worked at least 4 years but less than 6 years
  • 5 weeks if they have worked at least 6 years but less than 8 years
  • 6 weeks if they have worked at least 8 years but less than 10 years
  • 8 weeks if they have worked 10 years or more

Even if the business has changed ownership, the start date of the employee with the original owners counts as their official start date.  

Employers cannot make you use your vacation time or work overtime during the period of termination. 


Termination Payment

If you are terminated you must be paid within three days of your last working day. This pay must include your wages, overtime pay, vacation pay, general holiday pay and any termination pay. 


When Is A Notice Not Required?

There are a few exceptions of when your employer doesn’t have to give you notice if they fire you such as:

  • Being dismissed for just cause
  • If you’ve been employed on a seasonal basis
  • If you’ve been employed for 90 days or less
  • If you’ve been employed for a definite term for a period of 12 months or less
  • Casual employees who elect to work for a temporary period
  • If you fail to return to work within seven consecutive days of recall when temporarily laid off
  • If you’re subjected to contract employment because of unforeseeable and unpreventable causes beyond control of their employer
  • If you’ve been employed on-site in construction industry
  • If you’ve been employed in the cutting, removal or burning of trees and brush


When You Cannot Be Terminated

Employers cannot just terminate whoever they want – there must be just cause. And you definitely cannot terminate anyone if it violates human rights legislation that is in place in Alberta. This means if they’re on any job-protected leave, maternity or parental leave, the employer is discrimination against them or if they have spoken out or have reported on any violations of the Code. 

What is Just Cause for Termination?

Just cause is a pretty vague term when it comes to a reason to fire someone, so it’s important to know exactly what it means.  

The employer must show that it was more than just ‘dissatisfaction’ with the employee’s performance and that there was verified incompetence and misconduct. They need to have accurate records of this. The employer has to ensure before they terminate anyone that the employee knows the consequences of breaking the rules, such as an employee handbook or warning letters. 

What About Someone with A Disability?

If a disability is a factor in why someone was terminated then the employer needs to show that every attempt has been made to properly accommodate the employee before they were given the termination notice. 

Union Termination Protection

Having a union adds an extra layer of protection when you are dealing with termination. When you have a union, you also have a collective agreement in place that outlines your duties and responsibilities. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated than a union can take the issue to a grievance proceeding and also have lawyers to properly represent you. You always know you have someone who has your back.

Resources

If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated there are a number of resources in Alberta that you can reach out to. The first is the Alberta Human Rights Commissionwhere you can file a complaint if you believe your human rights have been violated. You can also contact Employment Standards directly if you have any questions. If you’re looking for legal representation you can contact the Law Society of Alberta for a lawyer referral. 

 


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