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Not Something You Should Try on Your Own, Part 4: Review of Severance Package or Employment Contract

Posted by Darryl Aarbo — filed in Employment Law

Part 4 of a 6 Part Series

Whether you are starting a new job or leaving a job, always get a lawyer with employment law experience to review the employment contracts, such as the employment contract or the severance package. Do not rely on the internet. This is like trying to diagnose that pain in your stomach by reading some medical website. At the end of the day you will either think you are dying or miss something that is important.

Termination of employment

Getting hired is a great experience and that cannot be understated in this market. Most people do not want to rock the boat, but if you are being asked to sign something then you should have a lawyer review the contract.

Even if you are not being asked to sign a document maybe YOU want a written agreement protecting your rights as a condition of you accepting the job. For example, you are being asked to leave another job, you are being asked to move, you are being made promises that you are not sure the employer can fulfill. Not only do employees sometimes exaggerate their skills, sometimes employers exaggerate the job to entice you to come.

Getting terminated is usually the opposite experience for people. It is often one of the worst things to happen to you in your life. It can also be hard for the employer, especially the person who has to do the firing. Further, many employers unwittingly step into problems. I have seen a number of employers fire people and quite openly violate the Human Rights Code. For example, they fire someone based upon the Family Status, one of the least understood prohibited grounds of discrimination. Also, they unwittingly violate the Employment Standard Code. Violating either of these acts has serious consequences for the employer and all employers, no matter how small, should seek legal advice before terminating.

The same goes with employees. Employers are running a business and it is expected that they are trying to maximize their bottom line and minimize expenses. At the end of the day the employer is trying to save money, it is motivated to minimize any severance packages. Thus, the first offer is not always the best offer.

Further, do not let the employer convince you that “its offer is its policy”. That may be their policy, but it may not be the law. The law may entitle you to more severance than their policy suggests. Law trumps policy.

Also, do not let them convince you that the Termination Pay provisions of the Employment Standards Code are its only obligation to you. If you are not getting minimum wage then you probably are entitled to more than the minimum Termination Pay set out in the Code.

This is especially true when dealing with some companies managed off-shore. Canada tends to have more generous severance obligations than some other countries so the employer itself may not know its true obligations.

Another factor to keep in mind is references. This is a whole area of negotiations in itself. There are lots of unwritten rules when it comes to references and it pays to know them in a negotiation.

Both employees and employers should seek legal advice when hiring or terminating employees. Once again an hour discussion with a lawyer can save many thousands of dollars in legal fees in the event of a dispute.

By Darryl Aarbo of Courtney Aarbo Fuldauer LLP

For more information, please contact the law office of Courtney Aarbo Fuldauer LLP at:

Address: 3rd Floor, 1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 3P4
Phone: (403) 571-5120

Darryl Aarbo
Barrister & Solicitor

*The information contained in this blog is not legal advice. It should not be construed as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you require legal assistance, please contact a lawyer*
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