Sawers McFarlane

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FAQ - Sawers McFarlane

Employment law can be complex and confusing to the uninitiated. Contracts, policies, and handbooks often contain unfamiliar terms and concepts. If you are facing a problem at work—whether it’s a safety issue, an issue with your pay or benefits, a disciplinary situation, or even harassment or discrimination—you may not be sure about your rights or how to proceed.

Employment laws govern the relationship between employees and employers in a non-union workplace; these laws can cover issues ranging from severance pay on termination to overtime rules to non-competition agreements. Labour law refers to the field of law governing labour unions and unionized workplaces.

Here, we have endeavored to answer some commonly asked questions pertaining to employment law. Talk to an experienced employment lawyer for advice about your specific situation.

I have been terminated from my job; am I entitled to a severance package? Employers generally provide severance in cases where termination was immediate and without just cause. If you received ample notice, or if your employee had just cause to terminate you, you may not be entitled to severance. Some employment contracts may also make provisions for severance packages. An employment lawyer can assess your situation and your employment contract and determine whether you may be entitled to severance pay.

How is the amount of severance calculated?

Severance pay may be based on a number of factors in your unique employment situation, possibly including  the amount of total compensation and benefits received, your age, your job responsibilities, length of service to the company, availability of alternative employment, and the circumstances under which the dismissal occurred. Again, the relevant factors are unique to each case, so be sure to talk to an employment lawyer to learn more about your rights and options.

My employer has changed the terms of my employment. What do I do?

If your employer has drastically changed the terms of your employment (for example, through dramatic alterations to your salary, commission structure, job description, health and insurance benefits, or other responsibilities), you may have legal rights and options. Depending on the details of your case, your employer may have breached the terms of your employment contract or created a constructive dismissal. You may be able to sue for termination of the employment contract along with severance pay.


I am leaving my job; should I sign a release?

Most employers will ask an employee to sign a release in order to receive any sort of severance package, or to receive their final paycheck. It is generally advisable to talk to an employment lawyer before you sign such a release; the document may be asking you to give up rights and benefits that you never knew you had. You should have a clear understanding of the document and the ramifications of signing, so that you can make an informed decision.

I think I have been the victim of discrimination. What should I do?

The Canadian government has enacted human rights legislation to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If you believe that you have been the target of discrimination on the basis of your race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, you may be able to take legal action to obtain compensation or other relief. Keep in mind that discrimination laws don’t just cover terminations; you are protected from discrimination in your pay, opportunities for advancement, and many other conditions of your job. You should keep a written record of any discriminatory acts, the dates they occurred, and the names of any witnesses that may bolster your case. Talk to an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible to make sure that you understand your next steps.

Should I sign a non-competition or non-solicitation clause?

A non-competition agreement is one where an employee promises an employer that he or she will not compete with the employer for a fixed period of time after leaving the employer. A non-solicitation agreement involves a similar promise not to solicit the employer’s customers or other employees for a fixed period of time. These agreements are included in many employment contracts, and may be of great significance to an employee, because they can impact an employee’s ability to start his or her own business or work for a competitor.

Some of these agreements are unenforceable, but it’s usually advisable to seek legal advice before you sign. An employee who violates such an agreement may be met with an injunction, an order to cease their work, and a lawsuit seeking damages. Even if the employee ultimately succeeds in having the agreement declared unenforceable, these cases can be complex and costly to litigate; it is generally better to seek legal advice before a dispute arises.

The Employment Law Firm of Sawers McFarlane: Protecting Your Future

This page is only intended to provide basic background information; for legal advice and representation about your employment challenges, you should contact a wrongful dismissal lawyer or employment law firm as soon as possible.

With over 35 years of combined experience in the legal field, the lawyers at Sawers McFarlane are committed to helping every client with their unique employment challenges. They can provide advice about any labour or employment problem, and can represent employees in negotiations, hearings, and litigation if necessary. No matter how complex the case, Sawers McFarlane is there to make sure that your rights are protected and your best interests are served. They have served thousands of clients in the Calgary area and across Western Canada, and have earned a reputation as professional, tenacious, and efficient legal advocates. Sawers McFarlane is located at #920 250 5th St SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 0R4 or they may be reached by calling (866) 790-3221.