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Samfiru Tumarkin

For many non-unionized employees in Ontario, it’s shocking to learn that they are being fired for cause.

In this situation, your employer doesn’t have to provide you with a severance package and you can’t access employment insurance benefits – making it even harder to support yourself financially as you look for a new job.

However, Lior Samfiru, an employment lawyer and co-founding partner of Toronto-based Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, says most workers are still entitled to severance pay because they “don’t meet the conditions necessary for this type of dismissal.”

If you have been terminated for cause in Ontario, don’t panic. Here are three things you need to be aware of.

It’s reserved for the worst workplace offences

In most cases, non-unionized employees convince themselves they must have done something wrong to warrant being terminated for cause.

“It’s important for workers to understand that this type of dismissal is considered the capital punishment of employment law,” says Samfiru, who appears weekly on CP24’s Ask a Lawyer. “It’s reserved for the most serious kinds of workplace offences, such as theft or assault.”

To justify firing you for cause, he adds that your employer must prove progressive disciplinary measures were applied and outline why a lesser punishment wouldn’t be acceptable.

“Since it’s very difficult to establish cause, you should seek legal counsel immediately after you are terminated. My firm can determine if this type of dismissal was appropriate in your situation and help you secure proper severance if it wasn’t.”

There isn’t a 'three-strike rule'

When employees commit a serious workplace offence, such as fraud, companies don’t have to give them any chances to improve before firing them for cause.

“However, most workers aren’t in a situation where this response would be appropriate,” says Samfiru. “If you were late to work on multiple occasions, or your job performance was lacking, your employer must implement progressive disciplinary measures before dismissing you without severance pay.”

He adds that there isn’t a hard rule on the exact number of chances an employee gets before their employer can automatically dismiss them with cause.

“There are no ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule that gives a company the ability to let you go without pay. Every situation is different.”

To successfully fire an employee for cause, Samfiru says it’s crucial for companies to build a proper case.

“Over the years, my team and I have dealt with many employers that didn’t put in the work before terminating staff. If your boss can’t justifyfiring you for cause, and the company refuses to provide you with your severance entitlements, you have been wrongfully dismissed and should take legal action.”

Your rights don’t expire after you’re fired

In some cases, employers will pressure non-unionized workers to immediately accept inadequate severance packages – claiming that they could let them go for cause instead.

“This tactic is commonly used by companies to avoid potential legal issues, since they did provide some compensation to the dismissed employee, and to bolster their bottom line,” says Samfiru.

If you receive a severance offer from your boss, he adds that you shouldn’t sign anything before seeking legal counsel.

“Employers can’t legally force you to accept a severance offer before leaving a termination meeting or even a few days after receiving it. As long as you didn’t sign it and return it to the company, you have two years from the date of your dismissal to pursue full severance pay. My firm’s free Pocket Employment Lawyer tool can help you determine if the offer from your boss falls short of what is legally appropriate.”

In addition to severance, Samfiru says you could be owed compensation for any damages associated with the end of your employment.

“The experienced employment law team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP has helped thousands of non-unionized individuals across Ontario resolve their workplace issues. We can review your situation, enforce your rights and ensure that you receive the compensation you are legally entitled to.”

Contact employment lawyer Lior Samfiru, co-founding partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, to get the advice and compensation you need by calling 1-888-861-4555, emailing Ask@EmploymentLawyer.ca or filling out an online contact form.

His law firm specializes in employment law in Ontario, Alberta and B.C., and long-term disability claims across Canada (except Quebec).

Discover your rights by watching Lior on Ask a Lawyer every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on CP24 or tune into the Employment Law Show on NEWSTALK 1010 every Sunday at 1 p.m.