Did you sign an employment agreement?
Generally speaking, an employee is entitled to receive either reasonable notice of their dismissal, or pay in lieu of this notice. Reasonable notice is usually assessed by considering the person’s tenure with their employer, their age, the type of job they had and whether there are comparable positions available within the local market.
An employee’s presumed entitlement to reasonable notice, however, may be replaced by entitlements which are set out in a written employment contract (or job offer) to which the employee agreed.
As such, if you have been fired, it is important to first get a copy of any employment contract(s) that you may have signed, and review these documents with an employment lawyer before accepting a severance offer.
When an employment lawyer reviews your employment contract for you, he/she will be looking to see whether there is any contractual language therein that specifies your entitlement to severance (i.e. a termination clause).
Often, employers look to include a termination clause in a contract to limit, or minimize, the severance that they would otherwise be required to pay pursuant to an employee’s right to receive reasonable notice. As a termination clause of this type will often dramatically reduce an individual’s presumed entitlement to severance, the courts review them very carefully and hold employers to a high standard. Specifically, an employer that wants to take away an employee’s entitlement to reasonable notice must ensure that their termination clause complies in all circumstances with provincial laws (such as the Employment Standards Act, 2000) and clearly specifies an alternate identifiable notice period.