Severance Package & Termination Reviews

Terminated? Don’t sign anything until you have your severance package reviewed.

Our Hamilton Employment Lawyers are routinely retained to review severance packages on behalf of employees and employers.   For employees, we have improved severance packages by hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 15 years.  If you have been terminated, your employer might have provided you with a severance package and a release to sign. Often, your employer will require you to sign-off on your severance offer too soon by asking you to execute a release which normally accompanies your severance letter. A release is a document that is stating that you agree to the amount and conditions offered to you, and by executing the release, you are releasing any potential legal claims at issue, or in other words, you are voiding your legal rights to sue your employer for wrongful dismissal.

If you have been terminated Don’t sign anything. Have your severance package reviewed.  It is important that you get the proper legal advice and make sure that your employer is paying you the appropriate amount of severance that you are entitled to by law.

My employer has told me I need to sign off on my severance by a certain date, what if I don’t?

Technically your employer can make any deal it wants with itself and pull any offer made to you if you don’t sign – but – you have the absolute implicit right to speak to an employment lawyer.  There is no question that you should invest a small amount of money and book a consultation with an experienced Hamilton lawyer who will be able to review your severance package and advise you if your employer is in a “ballpark” range of what is fair. Our Hamilton Employment Lawyers are happy to review your termination package, speak to you about your options and answer any questions that you may have.  When your employer tells you that a release is due by a certain day, it is often to pressure you into signing your document. You have 2 years to sue your employer.

I’ve been terminated without cause – what does this mean and am I entitled to severance?

Employees in Ontario are always entitled to notice of termination as set out by the Employment Standards Act, if you have been employed longer than 3 months. See here. In addition to the minimums established by the ESA, you have the right to reasonable notice of termination at common law (judge made law) and/or satisfaction of any termination provisions which are enforceable in your written employment contract.

At common law, you are entitled to payment in lieu of notice, dependant upon several factors such as:

  • your length of service;
  • your employment duties;
  • whether or not your position was specialized;
  • whether or not you are a professional;
  • your position in specialized in a narrow field of employment;
  • the availability of other employment;
  • your age;
  • your education;
  • whether or not you had a break in service and several other aspects that could be taken into consideration.

Am I entitled to compensation if I was treated unfairly?

You may be entitled to moral or aggravated damages if your termination was not done in good faith . A major Canadian case, called Keays, introduced the concept of what we call  “Moral Damages” to the common law relationship. Moral damages are often intertwined with and older legal concept called “Wallace damages”, “bad faith” and “aggravated damages”. The prevailing trend is that the courts are settling upon the term “aggravated damages”. Aggravated damages (which fall outside of the gambit of your employment contract) can be awarded if your employer did not follow through with it’s obligation to act in good faith and fairly in the manner of dismissal.  Aggravated (“moral”) damages must be grounded in proof of actual damages resulting from unfair or bad faith conduct in the manner of dismissal – i.e. you need to prove the bad faith conduct and your damages. You can also say that “moral damages” represents a category of damages when an employee has no provable monetary loss.

This type of compensation is to “vindicate your rights” or “symbolize recognition of their infringement.”

You may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are available when the misconduct of an employer would otherwise go unpunished. To deter employers, our Hamilton lawyers believe that at least a modest amount of punitive damages should seriously be considered by trial judges when the employer has engaged in conduct contrary to the obligation of good faith and fair dealing. Although punitive damages may be modest or minor in these circumstances, they do really serve the extremely important goal of ensuring that your workplace is humane and that you as an employee is protected when you are most vulnerable.

What are some examples of aggravated or moral damages, so I understand better?

Some examples of when an employee may be entitled to compensation or moral damages, includes a problematic ROE, not paying out termination funds in time or owing termination pay, depriving an employee of their rights to get legal advice, humiliation in front of co-workers, abusive conduct, employer forced resignation, lying and inappropriately terminating someone, the denial of short term disability benefits or misleading an employee about a pending dismissal could be some other examples.

Am I entitled to severance if I was terminated with cause?

No, you are not. However, terminating an employee for cause is a very drastic step and extreme measure. For example, the general rule in employment law is that a single incident of employee misconduct does not warrant summary dismissal. Lack of suitable work or the poor financial position of the employer is not cause for dismissal. Mere inefficiency or dissatisfaction with the employee’s performance is not enough to justify cause for dismissal. Your employer must show “real misconduct or incompetence.”  If misconduct is alleged, then your alleged mental state will be relevant, and if found that your mental state was impaired by a physical problem or stress, the court will consider this in determining whether there was cause for dismissal.

Hamilton employment lawyer for wrongful dismissal severance package reviews

    1. You should never sign a severance package or release that has been presented to you;
    2. Speak to us first before responding to your employer;
    3. Signing a severance release without understanding it properly is a never a good idea, especially if you have a longer term of service or you have been employed for your employer for more than 10 years.
    4. If you have been terminated call us, write us or chat with our live chat operator and book a time to see one of our Hamilton employment lawyers for a consultation to determine if what you are getting is fair at law.

We need to ensure that your severance agreement is being provided under the ESA, your benefits are in order, there are no outlandish restrictive covenants amongst other things. Please call us at 905-333-8888 or speak to our live operator, who will assist you with setting up your appointment with one of our Hamilton employment lawyers today. We are trial lawyers that can help.