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Samfiru Tumarkin

Losing your job is always a shock, even if you saw it coming. It feels like the rug has been pulled out from beneath, leaving you in a state of uncertainty as you scramble to figure out your next steps. In the chaos of a termination, beyond the immediate need to find a new job, there’s also the challenge of navigating through various misconceptions about being fired.

To help bust the most common myths around the process of firing, we spoke with employment lawyer Lior Samfiru. He’s the national co-managing partner of Toronto-based Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, Canada’s largest employee-side employment law firm.

Myth: A company can’t fire employees without justified cause

Reality: A company can fire people for a myriad of reasons

One of the biggest misconceptions is that companies can only fire employees if they have a compelling case to do so. In reality, an employer can fire someone for just about any reason, including a lack of work, restructuring, or even if they want to re-fill your position at a lower salary.

“Your boss can even let you go simply because you wore a red tie to work, and they only prefer the colour blue,” says Samfiru, pointing out how random and unfair firing decisions can be.

This kind of dismissal from work is called a termination “without cause.” When you are fired in this manner, your employer is legally required to provide you with a full severance package.

The big exception here is that you can’t be fired because of your age, gender, or medical condition, as those are protected by human rights legislation. If you think you were wrongfully fired for any of these reasons, speak with an employment lawyer like the ones at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP to determine if you should pursue a claim.

In any case, you should seek legal advice to understand your options for severance pay to ensure you get a fair package after being fired.

Myth: You won’t get a severance package if you're fired for cause or bad performance

Reality: Even if you’re fired with cause, you could be eligible for severance pay

Many employers think that firing someone for cause means they don’t have to pay severance. However, the threshold for establishing a termination ‘for cause’ is extremely high. It’s usually reserved for serious issues like theft or insubordination.

With the right legal assistance, many people who were told they were dismissed for cause can successfully argue that they were incorrectly terminated, making them eligible for full severance pay and employment insurance.

“Companies frequently dismiss employees for cause without proper justification,” Samfiru explains. “This could be due to poor performance, a mistake made on the job, or even posts made on social media.”

“Most terminations for cause are incorrect, leaving employees still entitled to compensation.”

Myth: The Ministry of Labour will help you get full severance pay

Reality: The Ministry of Labour can only ensure you get the bare minimum

It’s reasonable to think a government organization would be able to assess the fairness of a severance offer, but realistically, they can only help you get the legal minimum compensation, which may only be a few weeks’ pay. Plus, if you do pursue severance through the government, you could actually forfeit your right to seek additional compensation through an employment lawyer.

On the other hand, employment lawyers can help people secure a significantly higher severance package (up to several months’ pay, or tens of thousands of dollars in some cases) based on your circumstances. Many different elements will influence the amount of severance you should get. Check out the Pocket Employment Lawyer, a toolkit created by Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, to learn more about your rights when losing your job.

Myth: You need to accept a severance offer by the company's deadline

Reality: You can take your time to review, understand, and challenge the offer

Being fired can be a shock, but there's no rush to make decisions or sign documents immediately after being let go. You have the right to take time to review all the paperwork you’re given. This allows you to understand why you’ve been dismissed, examine the severance package offered, and fully grasp the terms surrounding your termination. Even if the company sets a sign-back deadline, you don’t have to return the signed documents by that date. From the day you’re fired, you have a two-year window to file a claim for proper compensation with an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

Myth: Severance pay is only a few weeks' pay

Reality: Severance pay can actually be up to 24 months’ pay

Let’s be honest, if it were up to the employer, fired employees would get the legal minimum severance, as that’s in the company’s best interest. Fortunately, they don’t get to decide how much severance you’re owed.

“Laws in Canada, along with years of court decisions, establish the factors that determine the compensation you’re entitled to, including age, job type, salary, and employability, which can result in a package of up to 24 months’ pay.” says Samfiru. He continues, “In the eyes of the law, if your employer doesn’t give you appropriate compensation, that’s a wrongful dismissal.”

To find out the value of your potential severance package, use Samfiru Tumarkin LLP’s severance pay calculator.

Being fired is never easy, but understanding your rights when facing termination in Canada is critical to get fair treatment during those challenging times. Before making any decisions, talk to an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP to understand your rights and secure the severance package you deserve.

Contact employment lawyer Lior Samfiru, national co-managing 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 represents non-unionized employees in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Discover your employment rights by watching Lior on Ask a Lawyer every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on CP24.