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Wrongful Dismissal / Severance

Experienced Nanaimo Employment Lawyer Serving Vancouver Island

Nanaimo, BC, employment lawyer Sabrina Yeudall works with employers and employees who need legal advice concerning their rights and obligations when an employment relationship ends. Although most employment in British Columbia is "at will," terminated employees have certain rights to notice and/or compensation when they are dismissed from employment. Learn more here or contact Candid Legal for a consultation if you need experienced assistance with an employment law matter.

What is "Wrongful Dismissal"?

People often erroneously understand “wrongful dismissal” to mean that it was wrong to dismiss someone from a job, and that legal action can require the employer to continue their position. This is not the case. Most employment is “at will,” which means an employee may be fired at any time for any reason (with some exceptions – for example, you can’t be fired for a characteristic that is protected by human rights legislation). In most cases, neither the Courts nor the Employment Standards Branch will force continued employment between parties.

Required Notice and Compensation Under the British Columbia Employment Standards Act

The issue is the amount of notice and/or compensation to which a terminated employee is entitled. In Nanaimo, most employers are governed by the Employment Standards Act, which sets out statutory minimums for the amount of notice or compensation required.

The statutory minimums vary depending on the length of time the employee was employed. No notice or compensation is due an employee who has worked for less than three months. An employee who has worked more than three months but less than twelve months is entitled to notice and/or compensation of one week. Generally, after each additional year of employment, an additional week of notice and/or compensation is required. According to the statutory minimums, the appropriate amount for a “week’s pay” is determined by taking an average of regular wages earned over the eight weeks preceding dismissal.

In addition to the statutory minimums set out in British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act, a party may be entitled to additional notice. Factors a court would consider to determine whether notice was reasonable include:

  • The nature of the position (i.e. level of responsibility and authority);
  • The length of the employment relationship;
  • The age of the terminated employee;
  • The availability of alternative employment, given the age, experience, training, qualifications, and geographical location of the employee.

Damages for Bad Faith Dismissal of an Employee

Where bad faith is evidenced in the manner of dismissal, an employee may also be entitled to damages for mental distress. Employers are held to an obligation of good faith and fair dealing when dismissing employees, and those that fail to do so risk becoming liable for extended periods of compensation.

Employees Fired for "Just Cause"

Employees who are fired for “just cause” are not entitled to notice or compensation. Determining whether just cause exists is a factually driven, contextually specific exercise. Often, what one party believes to constitute just cause for immediate dismissal is not supported by the law. If you have been terminated by an employer alleging “just cause”, or if you are looking for advice as to whether an incident provides you with “just cause” to dismiss an employee, we can help.

We invite you to contact Candid Legal if you need assistance with a British Columbia employment law matter. You may request a consultation by filling out our online form, calling (250) 585-1595, or emailing . Based in Nanaimo, we serve employees and employers throughout Vancouver Island.

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