The Importance of Consulting an Employment Lawyer

Consulting an Employment Lawyer
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels

Whether you’re a business owner or an employee, being on the same page regarding workplace rights, entitlements, and obligations facilitates a happier, transparent work environment that benefits everyone. 

However, as workplace employment laws are vast and come from numerous statutes, like the Employment Standards Act, Canada Labour Code, Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to name just a few of many, both employers and employees should consult a Toronto employment lawyer from time to time to know their rights and obligations and how the law applies in various workplace circumstances that might lead to future disputes.

Below are just a few of the work-related situations that require the guidance of a lawyer specializing in employment law.

Canadian Employment Law in a Nutshell

Employment law in Canada encompasses a range of statutes, regulations, and case law precedents that govern the relationship between employers and employees. This area of law is designed to provide a framework aimed at ensuring fair treatment and protection of workers while supporting the needs of employers.

Additionally, while federal employment laws apply to employees in federally-regulated industries like banking, telecommunications, and inter-provincial transportation, most employees are governed by the employment laws of the province or territory in which they work. This variation highlights the importance of understanding local laws and how they interact with national standards.

While there are many issues that fall under the purview of employment law, the most common can be summarized as:

  • Employment Contracts. These agreements between employers and employees should outline the terms of employment, including job responsibilities, salary, benefits, severance pay, paid leave, and the conditions under which employment may be terminated without notice. The law provides minimum standards in the absence of an employment contract or if a component of employment is not covered in the contract.
  • Wages and Hours. Laws regulating minimum wage, overtime pay, and other aspects of compensation ensure that employees are fairly compensated for their time and work. These laws also cover the standards for working hours, breaks, and time off between shifts.
  • Workplace Safety. These regulations aim to ensure that workplaces are free from undue hazards and health risks, and include the right to refuse unsafe work and the procedures to follow when workplace injuries occur.
  • Employment Equity and Anti-Discrimination. These provisions protect employees from discrimination on various protected grounds, such as race, gender, age, and disability. The goal is to ensure equal opportunity in hiring, promotions, and accessibility in the workplace.
  • Leave Entitlements. Statutory leave entitlements, including maternity leave, parental leave, and sick leave, are the minimums required by law.

Many employees and employers often hold misconceptions about the rights and obligations set out under Canadian employment law standards. 

For example, there’s a common belief among workers that an employer has to have a good reason to dismiss an employee. This is not true in Canada; employers can terminate an employment contract at any time without giving a reason; however, they must provide adequate notice or pay in lieu of notice unless there is sufficient cause for immediate dismissal. Conversely, employers are often unaware that a termination for cause (or dismissal without notice or pay in lieu of notice) requires a serious breach of trust that has a high threshold to meet.

When to Consult an Employment Lawyer

Navigating the complex landscape of employment law can be challenging, and there are several situations where consulting an employment lawyer is not only advisable but can be crucial in protecting your rights as an employee. Here are some key instances when you should consider seeking legal advice as an employee:

  • Contract Negotiations or Reviews. Before signing an employment contract, or when changes to an existing contract are proposed, it’s wise to have a lawyer review the document. Employment lawyers can identify clauses that may unfairly limit your rights, such as unclear termination provisions, and can negotiate terms on your behalf.
  • Wrongful Termination. If you believe that at the time of your dismissal, you weren’t given proper notice or compensation, an employment lawyer can help you understand your rights and options. 
  • Your Employer Unilaterally Made Substantial Changes to Your Role or Employment Terms. If you do not wish to accept these changes, speak to an employment lawyer immediately.
  • You received an Unfair Performance Review. Employers who wish to terminate an employee without paying them their severance will sometimes make up a vague or untrue performance review and use it as a means to justify a for-cause termination. Speak to an employment lawyer right away if this happens to you.
  • Severance Package Reviews. When employment ends, whether through termination or layoff, an employment lawyer can review your severance package to ensure that it is fair and compliant with legal standards. They can negotiate on your behalf if the initial offer is inadequate. It’s crucial to remember that you do not have to make a decision on a severance package offer until you’ve consulted an employment lawyer, and an employer can’t pressure you or place a time limit on their offer.

In each of these situations, an employment lawyer can provide invaluable assistance by ensuring that your rights are protected and by helping you receive the compensation you’ve earned. 

How an Employment Lawyer Can Assist in Resolving Disputes
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How an Employment Lawyer Can Assist in Resolving Disputes

Employment lawyers play a crucial role in resolving disputes in the workplace, serving both employees and employers. Their expertise helps to ensure that both parties understand their legal obligations and work towards a resolution that is compliant with employment laws. Here’s how employment lawyers can assist in dispute resolution:

  • Representation in Negotiations or Mediation. Whether it’s a dispute over employment terms, severance, or workplace conflicts, employment lawyers can represent either side in negotiations or mediation sessions. They ensure that their clients’ positions are effectively communicated and work towards a settlement that is fair and satisfactory for all parties involved.
  • Preparing and Reviewing Documents and Agreements. Employment lawyers draft, review, and ensure the legality of various workplace documents, such as employment contracts and non-disclosure agreements. For employers, they help create policies that are legally sound, reducing the risk of future disputes or liability. For employees, they ensure that the agreements they enter into protect their rights and interests.
  • Litigation Support. If a dispute escalates to the point where litigation is necessary, employment lawyers provide representation in court. They prepare legal documents, gather evidence, and advocate on behalf of their client, whether defending an employer against claims or pursuing claims on behalf of an employee. 
  • Advice on Legal Rights and Available Options. Employment lawyers are invaluable in advising clients on the legal options available to them and their consequences. This can involve interpreting how employment laws apply to specific situations and providing strategies for handling disputes before they escalate to formal legal challenges.

By offering their legal expertise, employment lawyers facilitate a smoother resolution process, often saving time, money, and stress for both employers and employees. Their involvement is key to maintaining a professional and legally compliant workplace environment.

The content published on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, health or other professional advice.

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