You’ve been terminated by an employer in BC. You’re stressed and concerned about what to do and feel it’s unfair.
Can you legally appeal the decision or is your employer within their rights?
What constitutes wrongful termination?
Employees have few rights when it comes to working in BC but you do have some protections – and employers must follow certain obligations to the letter if they want to terminate you legally.
Here’s what you need to know about employment termination in BC…
Does BC employment standards law apply to you?
BC employment standards law covers most but not all employees in the province. The main piece of legislation to refer to is the Employment Standards Act.
This covers a set of minimum standards that employers are obligated to follow when handling employees, including during termination.
If any of the following apply, you are covered by the employment standards contained in the Act:
- You perform work for wages – regardless of the hours
- You perform work normally done by an employee or receive training for it
- You’re on leave from an employer or have a right of recall from a temporary layoff
The laws generally exclude independent contractors, federally regulated employees, union members and seasonal workers, as well as some managers and people in certain licensed professions.
All employees have an employment contract of some sort – even a verbal agreement is a contract. If you have a written contract, this may affect your position if terminated by an employer in BC. Your contract may include terms covering how your employment can be ended.
However, it is unlawful for a BC employer to include terms in this contract that are less than those stipulated in the Employment Standards Act.
What if you were fired without doing anything wrong?
It surprises some people that you can be lawfully fired in BC without doing anything wrong.
An employer has a right to terminate employees whenever they want. However, the termination process carries certain employer obligations that can be questioned if not followed.
According to the Employment Standards Act, an employer in BC must provide notice of termination either by:
- Warning you by providing a reasonable notice period
- Providing severance pay instead of notice, in which case you may be terminated immediately
If you are covered by the legislation, your employer must provide a minimum notice period or severance pay in accordance with the minimums (mainly dependent upon how long you have been in your job – but other factors also apply).
Read more about the minimum notice periods.
What if you were fired for doing something wrong?
Your employer may lawfully terminate you immediately if there is “just cause”.
This means you have done something wrong that breaches the employment contract or means that the employment relationship cannot reasonably continue, such as:
- Stealing company property
- Lying about something important
- Repeatedly breaching workplace regulations
However, employers cannot use “just cause” as a reason to not provide reasonable notice or severance. That would be a breach of employment law in BC.
In most “just cause” cases, you are entitled to have received warnings about behaviour/conduct before the employer fires you. A valid reason must be provided by your employer.
Speak to an employment lawyer if you feel harshly treated as many employers fail to follow the correct procedure with just cause termination.
Can you be fired for poor performance?
If your employer cites “poor performance” as a reason for firing you, you are generally entitled to receive written warnings about your performance and ample time and opportunities to improve before being terminated.
However, remember that an employer has the right to fire you for almost any reason if reasonable notice or severance pay is provided.
What can you NOT be fired for in BC?
You are protected under BC employment standards law and human rights law from being fired for the following:
- Doing something you have the legal right to do, such as refusing work on safety grounds or taking a vacation
- Discrimination against your race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, citizenship, birthplace, gender, religious beliefs, disability, marital or parental status, or sexual/gender identity
Can you file a human rights claim?
Employees are protected against discrimination according to BC’s human rights law.
If you are fired for one of the discriminatory reasons cited above, you may be able to file a claim with the BC Human Rights Tribunal as well as claiming against your employer for wrongful termination under employment law.
When is notice not required in BC?
In certain situations, no reasonable notice or severance pay is required for an employment arrangement to be terminated:
- You are fired for “just cause” (see above)
- You quit or retire
- You refuse to accept reasonable alternative employment
- You work on an on-call basis (where you can accept or reject jobs)
- Your employment agreement is for a stated period
- You are hired for specific work to be completed in 12 months or less
- An unforeseen event makes it impossible to perform your job function (a bankruptcy is not considered an unforeseen event)
- You work at a construction site
- You are a teacher employed by a board of school trustees
Does your employer need to pay outstanding wages?
Regardless of the reason you were terminated, your employer must ensure that your outstanding wages and vacation pay are settled.
Your employer must also provide you with a copy of your record of employment (ROE) so that you can apply for employment insurance benefits.
What should you do after being fired in BC?
If you are fired from your position in BC and you are unsure if your employer has met his or her obligations to you, it is advisable to get legal advice from a local employment lawyer.
Even if you are offered a severance package, do not accept it without having it checked by an employment lawyer. Many employers provide only the minimum packages (or even less) and you may be entitled to far more under common law.
Generally speaking, follow these basic steps after being terminated:
- Ask your employer for the reason for your termination and request documentation to this effect
- Apply for unemployment benefits immediately
- Discuss your case with an employment lawyer to consider legal action
Arrange a confidential telephone or video consultation about your severance pay rights with an experienced employment lawyer at Taylor Janis in Vancouver.
Our main hub for British Columbia is located in the heart of Vancouver. We also have a Kamloops Office for interior residents. That said, we serve the entire province of BC. We have the infrastructure to work with any of our clients virtually — even the furthest regions of British Columbia.
We also have a dedicated intake form to help you get the ball rolling. Our intake team will review your specific case and advise you on the next steps to take as well as what to expect moving forward.
Our offices are generally open 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Mon—Fri.
Evan Harvey is a lawyer practicing labour and employment law in the Vancouver office. He prides himself in a compassionate and focused approach to developing and maintaining trusting client relationships and advocating his clients’ interests in a meticulous, concise, and straight-forward manner.