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Alberta Labour Board Wrongful Dismissal

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Have you been dismissed from your job? As employment is so vital to the survival of most people, Alberta law and federal law have laid out specific protections outlining when a person may be dismissed from their job. 

In certain cases, you may be entitled to compensation for damages in the event that you are wrongfully dismissed. 

What qualifies as wrongful dismissal?

A wrongful dismissal occurs when:

  • An employer fails to give proper notice or a proper severance payment when terminating your employer. 
  • In a case where an employer has violated your employment contract, if you had one.
  • In a case where an employer has dismissed you for unlawful reason, such as firing you on the basis of your race.
  • In a case where the employer has made your working environment unbearable or hostile and you resigned (constructive dismissal). 

Wrongful dismissal only applies if you are a non-unionized employee who is employed by a provincial jurisdiction employer. If you’re governed by a collective bargaining agreement or work for a federal jurisdiction employer like banks, airlines, or railways then the Alberta Employment Standards Code governing wrongful dismissal cases will not apply to you.  You’ll be governed by the Canada Labour Code instead.

Keep in mind that like all areas of the law, wrongful dismissal law is complicated. You are unlikely to navigate it successfully on your own. 

What’s the difference between wrongful dismissal and unfair dismissal?

This distinction is made in some countries, but it’s not made in Alberta. 

What is constructive dismissal?  

Some employers create a hostile work environment, either on purpose because they want employees to quit without invoking wrongful termination laws, because they are retaliating for some perceived wrong, or because the workplace is simply toxic. Yet in these cases, employees do have rights.

If your employer has made conditions unbearable by completely altering your job responsibilities, cutting your salary to a significant degree, forcing you to change locations or hours in a way that is untenable, prevents you from carrying out your duties, or creating an environment where sexual harassment is allowed to thrive then you may be able to leave your job and get wrongful termination compensation through a process called “constructive dismissal.”

Before you take this step it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer who is well versed in Alberta wrongful termination law. Employers are quite adept at claiming that their alterations were within the bounds of the law. You’ll want to make sure you’re on very solid ground before you give up your job. Yet you also will want to have that consultation as soon as the changes are made. If you allow them to continue overtime or take steps that make it appear as though you’ve accepted these conditions then the court may rule that constructive dismissal did not apply. 

When can an employer dismiss without notice? 

An employer may dismiss you without notice if they choose to pay you for the required notice period instead. 

Employers are required to observe a notice period based on the length of your service, or as outlined in your employment contract.

  • Less than 90 days: no notice required.
  • Up to 2 years of service: 1 week of notice required.
  • 2 to 4 years of service: 4 weeks of notice required.
  • 6 to 8 years of service: 5 weeks of notice required.
  • 8 to 10 years of service: 6 weeks of notice required.
  • 10+ years of service: 8 weeks of notice are required.

If you are a seasonal or temporary employee then your employer is not required to give you any notice and may terminate your employment for any reason and at any time. 

You also are not entitled to any notice if you are being fired “for a cause.” Many employers sidestep the notice requirement by making the case that employees gave a substandard performance, broke company policies, or gave them some other just reason for removing them. 

How do you prove wrongful dismissal? 

Evidence can include:

  • Your employment contract.
  • Copies of performance reviews.
  • Achievements, KPI records, or other performance indicators.
  • Awards that you’ve received.
  • Pay stubs. 
  • Emails between you and your direct supervisor.

If you’ve been terminated you should try to gather as much of this evidence as possible before you leave the building. Rest assured that your employer will be presenting evidence against you as well. You should contact a lawyer as quickly as possible. 

What are your options if you’ve been wrongfully dismissed?

In many cases, your best option may be to simply seek other employment. You’re required to try to mitigate your damages in this way anyway.

Yet you also have the right to seek damages, especially if many weeks of pay are at stake.

One option for doing this is to file a claim with Employment Standards. You’re limited to $10,000 in recovery funds, but it can be a fast, easy process, especially if the facts are on your side.

If you were employed by this company for years your severance package might well be worth far more than $10,000, especially if you would have been entitled to a pension or bonuses that have now been denied to you. In this case, you’ll need to file a civil lawsuit.

A lawyer can help you determine the strength of your case, the amount that’s at stake, and what your best options are likely to be. 

How much compensation can I get for my wrongful dismissal claim?

A wrongful dismissal claim is akin to a personal injury claim in that your employer has committed a wrong against you and you’ve been hurt as a result, if only financially. You can receive three types of compensation.

The first type is the exact amount you’d have been entitled to based on the notice period.

The second is called “special compensation.” If your termination caused you mental distress then you can request compensation for this distress. This is essentially akin to pain and suffering damages in a personal injury case.

The third type is a little bit rarer. These are punitive damages. These damages can be awarded if your employer fired you because you blew the whistle on illegal practices they were engaged in, or in retaliation after you reported sexual harassment. The purpose of these damages is to deter this sort of behavior in the future. Punitive damages are very hard to attain and you have to have an air-tight case showing that your employer has engaged in some true harm before the courts will even consider awarding them.

How much does a wrongful dismissal lawyer cost?

Most wrongful dismissal lawyers in Alberta work on contingency, just like in personal injury cases. We don’t get paid until you get paid. We take a percentage of your settlement instead. You will often pay some legal fees on top of that, such as costs for expert witnesses.

We know how this sounds. Yet you’re likely to walk away with far more money with the help of a lawyer than you’d ever get on your own. Employers devote a great deal of time and attention to avoiding wrongful termination liability. If you’re going to recover any money at all, you truly will need a skilled lawyer by your side. 

Why trust us with your wrongful dismissal claim? 

We’re known as some of Alberta’s toughest litigators and savviest negotiators. We go into every case we accept as if we’ll have to take it all the way to trial, and then buckle down hard to resolve it fast through a swift settlement process.

We’re also responsive and caring lawyers who have helped many other Calgary residents handle their wrongful termination cases.

If you’ve been dismissed, don’t delay. Call (403) 669-3393 to get help today.

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