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I just got fired now what?!

Even if you saw it coming, being let go from your job is never easy. Physically you may be sitting in the meeting with a manager or an HR representative learning about the next steps, but mentally your mind can easily start to wander to concerns about the future. 

What am I going to do next?

How will I earn income until I find a new job?

What am I going to tell my family?

These concerns are all perfectly normal and can happen whether you’ve been employed for 2 months or 25 years. Even if the termination was entirely a business decision and not personal at all, it’s hard not to take the decision personally.  While it may feel completely unsettling when faced with a termination, you do have options, and the best one to start with is to call a lawyer.

Here’s a glimpse as to what happens next.

Have your termination notice reviewed before signing!

In your termination meeting, whether it was in-person or virtual, the HR representative or manager likely walked you through some paperwork.  You have likely been advised to review the paperwork and provide a signed copy of the letter to accept the terms offered by your employer.  

Legally, you should be given the opportunity to review your termination documents with a lawyer to ensure that you are receiving a fair severance package. If you were pressured to sign anything on the spot, or if you did because you were being pressured, you were effectively signing under duress. That is important, as a lawyer may be able to argue that your signature was invalid because you were pressured into signing. 

It may feel natural to want to phone a lawyer on your way home, or minutes after your meeting. Don’t hesitate to wait a day, or even a few hours, to cool down and collect your thoughts. Your lawyer will be asking a lot of questions and will need accurate information when reviewing your severance package, so it’s best to go into that conversation with a clearer head.

Your employment contract matters

One of the first questions an employment lawyer will ask is to see a copy of your written employment agreement or employment contract.  While it’s normal to lose access to your work email and folders this point, go through your paperwork to see if you have a copy of your employment contract or reach out to your employer to obtain a copy. 

Your employment contract likely spells out what the company owes you if they terminate your employment without notice, so it is important to first see if the offer they have made aligns with that agreement.

The reality, though, is that most employment contracts are not written well. Many are outdated, and any language that they have used in the past to restrict what you may be entitled to upon termination may no longer be enforceable. Employers often use contracts to restrict what employees may be entitled to, but the language needs to be incredibly precise and compliant with the statutory requirements of the Employment Standards Act, 2000.  An employment lawyer has the expertise to determine if any restrictions to your rights are enforceable or not.  

Reviewing your termination package

When you meet with a lawyer, they will likely thoroughly review your termination package with you in greater detail. They will determine based on your particular circumstances and the terms of any written employment agreement if your employer has provided you with an appropriate termination package. Even if the employer has offered more than suggested in your contract, it may not mean that what is offered is the maximum amount that you may be owed. 

If your employer has offered you anything beyond your legal minimums, they’ve likely done this in exchange for you signing a release. That release will include language stating that you’ve accepted their offer and cannot make any further claims against the employer, legal or human rights or otherwise. It will also likely require you to keep any settlement payment confidential and may have other restrictions as well.

Thus, an employment lawyer can help assess whether you’ve been given a fair offer, or if you may be entitled to more. 

What if I have been fired for cause?

In some instances, your employer might allege that you had been fired ‘for cause,’ or for ‘just cause’ because of something that they allege you did or did not do and may not offer you any sort of payment or severance package.

In this case it is imperative to consult with an employment lawyer. Most employers do not understand the legal threshold of ‘just cause,’ and can wrongfully terminate an employee without paying them when in fact they may be owed a significant amount of money. 

An employment lawyer will help review the circumstances around your termination, including what the employer has alleged, and any investigation that they had done before making their decision. These can often be more complicated cases, and you may not have a clear answer after a consultation. However, if the employer is in the wrong, you may be owed money not only for wrongful termination but for how the employer has behaved after it happened.

What do the next steps look like?

Once you’ve had a chance to collect your thoughts, and assess the situation with a lawyer, you can decide whether you want to accept the employer’s offer or retain employment counsel. While you have likely been given a deadline from your former employer, if you do hire a lawyer they will reach out to let your former employer know that you now have a lawyer, and all communication will go through them directly.

From there, there are multiple paths towards a resolution. Over 98% of cases avoid trial, and you may not even need to start a legal claim to get a fair severance package. Letters, negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or even a formal court process can all be used to get what you deserve, and often in combination with one another.

We have helped countless former employees throughout the Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo regions get fair settlements through enhanced severance packages and ultimately get back on their feet faster. While you may be facing a difficult situation, our employment lawyers are here to walk you through your option.  Contact us today to ensure you’re being treated fairly.