Jennifer had been working for her company for several years, and she was considered by many of her co-workers to be a good and reliable worker. She was rarely late, never missed a day of work without documentation, did not cause any trouble with her supervisor or customers, and was overall a model employee. Despite all of this, one day out of nowhere Jennifer’s supervisor approached her and told her that she was terminated from the company effective immediately, and that she would not receive any severance pay. When she asked why, he shrugged and said that it was the economy.
Jennifer’s case is one that many people are afraid of encountering in the current economic climate. Fortunately, in Alberta workers do have rights. The Employment Standards Code was enacted to protect people in the workforce from being treated unfairly, including both employees and employers. This legislation contains minimum wage laws, limits on the number of consecutive hours of work, and other similar measures. The legislation also deals with the process of termination of an employment relationship, either by the employer or the employee. Subsequent decisions of the Alberta Courts, which typically involve the analysis and application of the Employment Standards Code, lend further authority to assist with these questions and clarify one’s rights and obligations pursuant to the common law beyond the “statutory floor of rights” established by the legislation.
The question of whether Jennifer was wrongfully dismissed depends on various factors, not all of which are considered here. It is, however, important to recognize that there are only a few set causes in Alberta that may warrant such an abrupt dismissal. These include dishonesty or theft, neglect of duty, gross incompetence, and lack of performance. Any of these causes must be proven by the employer if challenged if challenged by the employee.
Please contact one of our qualified lawyers for more information on wrongful dismissal and severance pay.