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Wrongful Dismissal

Work in British Columbia? Know the Signs of Wrongful Termination

British Columbia’s strong system of employment protections gives those employed by private companies extensive rights. However, the system as it’s currently set up often fails to prevent employees from being unfairly dismissed from their job. When this happens, it is called wrongful dismissal and it can leave employees without a safety net while unemployed. Any time an employer fails to meet the basic requirements for rightfully terminating an employee, they can be held accountable and the employee can be awarded damages by the courts. Know the signs of wrongful termination, formally known as wrongful dismissal.

Signs of Wrongful Dismissal (with Examples)

Business owners, operators, and managers attempting to avoid providing proper notice or compensation may try to hide their wrongful dismissal of an employee. But knowing the signs of wrongful dismissal can help you do something about it.

Dismissed Without Notice

Employers following the rules outlined in the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and defined by common law can choose between providing notice or pay when terminating an employee. Many employers choose notice in lieu of compensation to avoid paying the employee not to work. When they do choose notice, they are required to provide it at least two weeks prior to the employee’s last day of work.

Depending on the job level an employee attained, notice on its own may not be sufficient when dismissed. To avoid wrongly dismissing those in higher-paying, higher-responsibility jobs, both compensation and notice are often required.

This inexactness is written into the law deliberately. The ESA does not dictate what constitutes appropriate notice but rather, sets minimums employers work from. It is the employer’s responsibility to make a sound judgment regarding what the employee is owed and should reflect the agreed-upon stipulations of an employment contract.

Dismissed Without Compensation

Employers are within their legal right to choose notice or compensation when terminating an employee. There are reasons employers may choose to provide compensation instead of notice. If the employer decides it’s time to move on from an employee but does not want to give at least a minimum of two weeks’ notice, the business may opt to provide compensation instead. Most commonly, compensation is provided when dismissal happens within what would have been a reasonable notice window.

Employees terminated from positions above the entry level may be due substantial compensation and/or notice. Common law wrongful dismissal standards dictate that compensation and notice must be comparable to those in similar positions. Compensation must reflect all of the employee’s compensation at the time of termination, including how long they received that level of pay. Severance pay could include medical benefits, stocks, and bonuses.

Termination With Justification

Employers are within their right to let an employee go at any time, for any reason, as long as they provide ample notice or compensation. The exception to this ESA rule is applied in the case of “for cause” terminations. “For cause” means that the employee’s termination is justifiable based on their behaviour. Examples could include insubordination, chronically poor performance, theft, and intoxication while on the clock.

Even in the case of a justifiable termination, the employer is required to provide the employee with a written explanation for their firing. This explanation is likely to include details regarding the offending behaviours including dates, times, and the impact these had on the business.


Unlike the ESA, which is a BC law, discrimination in employment is largely regulated at the national level through the Canadian Human Rights Act. In Canada, freedom from discrimination is considered a fundamental human right, meaning that if employment discrimination occurs it represents a serious breach of the law and ethics tantamount to human rights abuses. The Canadian Human Rights Act pertains to all aspects of employment including hiring, on-the-job treatment, and termination. As it concerns wrongful dismissal, discriminatory treatment is always serious even if the employer may have otherwise been in their right to terminate. There are no excuses for job discrimination. If you believe you are the victim of discrimination, submit a report without fear of retribution from those you accuse.

Changing Contract Terms

Wrongful dismissal does not only include outright termination or human rights discrimination. It can also occur when you leave a job. If an employer forces you out of a job by trying to change your employment contract without your consent or say so, this is called constructive dismissal and it is considered a form of wrongful dismissal. Employers may coerce employees into accepting lower pay than their contract states under threat of job loss. Any attempt to make changes to an employment contract under these conditions is illegal, especially if you decide to leave your job under these unfair conditions.

Inaccurate Statements

Employers who have made the mistake of wrongly dismissing an employee may try to make inaccurate statements to support their wrongdoing and avoid accountability. Remember, if an employer is claiming a just cause dismissal, they must provide written documentation demonstrating why the employee was fired, ideally at the time the employee is let go.

Withheld Paychecks

Unscrupulous and dishonest employers may engage in multiple illegal actions in their treatment of employees. Like wrongful dismissal, pay withholding theft is a serious issue across Canada. If you are a victim of wage theft or an employer attempting to argue that you are not due pay you’ve already earned, consider filing a complaint with the ESA administrative offices in BC. Contact an employment lawyer for a free review of your case.

Previous Allegations

No one is allowed to intimidate you when making a complaint under the ESA. If you have concerns that were wrongly dismissed, check BC’s database containing published ESA violations. Investigate whether or not your employer has a previous history of wrongful dismissal or other impropriety. An expert BC employment lawyer will certainly do this on your behalf.