I Have Been Dismissed (Fired) without Just Cause
The general rule is that you can be dismissed (fired or laid off) even if you’ve done nothing wrong, and the law can't require that you get your job back. There are exceptions, however:
- Union members: If you belong to a union, your union representatives can file a grievance on your behalf. The arbitrator can order that you be reinstated, along with back pay.
- Human rights violations: If you believe that you've been fired because of your race, political belief, religion, marital or family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age or a criminal conviction, you can file a human rights complaint, and the BC or federal human rights tribunal could order that you be reinstated, along with lost pay. See "I am being discriminated against or sexually harassed" in this Guide.
- Health or safety complaints: If you believe that you've been fired because you complained about a health or safety matter (relating to yourself or anyone else), you can file a discrimination complaint with workers' compensation (WorkSafeBC). WorkSafeBC can order that you be reinstated and receive back pay unless the employer can prove that your health and safety actions had nothing to do with your dismissal.
- Federally regulated employees: If you have been fired after being employed in a federally regulated industry for twelve (12) months or more, you can ask an adjudicator for an order for lost pay and, if you wish, that you be reinstated.
If you don't fall within one of these groups, you won't be able to get your job back, but you are entitled to receive notice before your employment ends, or pay in lieu of notice. The minimum notice requirements depend on whether your employer is federally or provincially regulated (for a brief explanation, see "My employer isn't paying my wages" in this Guide).
If your employer is provincially regulated, you are entitled to at least:
- One (1) week's notice (or equivalent pay) after three (3) consecutive months of employment.
- Two (2) weeks' notice (or equivalent pay) after twelve (12) consecutive months of employment.
- Three (3) weeks' notice (or equivalent pay) after three (3) consecutive years of employment, plus an additional week's notice (or equivalent pay) for each additional consecutive year of employment to a maximum of eight (8) weeks' notice (or equivalent pay).
If your employer is federally regulated, you are entitled to at least two (2) weeks' notice or two (2) weeks of severance pay in lieu of notice once you have completed three (3) consecutive months of employment.
In addition to your entitlement to minimum notice (or pay in lieu of notice), you may also be entitled to common law reasonable notice (or pay in lieu of notice). This additional entitlement may be significantly more than the minimum amounts. The additional common law reasonable notice may also require you to take steps to "mitigate" your loss of income and benefits. This means that, after your employment ends, you may have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to find new employment. A failure to mitigate may affect your entitlement to the amount of common law reasonable notice.
If you have not been explicitly dismissed (fired), but your employer has taken action to demonstrate that it no longer wishes to continue your employment, this may be a constructive dismissal. Since you have not been formally dismissed, the employer's action is referred to as a "constructive" dismissal. If you can prove that you have been constructively dismissed, you may be entitled to the minimum notice entitlement and common law reasonable notice.
If you did not receive the notice or equivalent pay that you are entitled to:
- Follow the steps outlined in "My employer isn't paying my wages" to file an employment standards complaint. The steps will vary depending on whether your employer is federally or provincially regulated. If your employer is federally regulated, you must file your complaint within ninety (90) days of the dismissal. If your employer is provincially regulated, you must file your complaint within six (6) months of the dismissal. In either case, you need to act quickly.
- If you have been dismissed without just cause, you may also sue your employer in court for wrongful dismissal. See "I need to take someone to court" in this Guide. A judge may order your employer to pay you more money that the provincially or federally regulated minimums described above. If you intend to commence legal proceedings in court for wrongful dismissal, you must file your claim within two (2) years of the dismissal.
If you have been dismissed for "just cause", you may still have a chance to make a claim. Speak to a lawyer or advocate immediately, as the timelines noted above will apply.
|If you belong to a union and have been dismissed from your job, you should immediately ask your shop steward or other union representative to file a grievance on your behalf.|
What happens next
If you have filed an employment standards complaint, see "My employer isn't paying my wages" in this Guide for what happens next. If your employer is federally regulated and you have worked twelve (12) or more months, you can apply for an order for all the pay you would have earned had you not been dismissed and, if you wish, that you be given your job back. Note that you may be awarded less than your full loss of earnings depending on the facts.
If you have chosen to sue your former employer, see "I need to take someone to court" in this Guide for what happens next.
Employment Insurance benefits
You may be entitled to employment insurance (EI) benefits if you lose your job through no fault of your own (for example, you were dismissed without cause) and you are available and able to work, but aren't able to find work. EI benefits provide regular financial benefits to assist you through the transition of job loss. You must apply for EI benefits as soon as you stop working. A delay in filing for EI benefits may affect your eligibility.
You may be entitled to EI benefits if you:
- were employed in insurable employment;
- lost your job through no fault of your own;
- have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
- have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
- are ready, willing and capable of working each day; and
- are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).
You may not be entitled to benefits if you:
- voluntarily left your job without just cause;
- were dismissed for misconduct;
- are unemployed because you are directly participating in a labour dispute (for example, a strike, lockout or other type of conflict); or
- during a period of leave that compensates for a period in which you worked under an agreement with your employer, more hours than are normally worked in full-time employment.
Where to get help
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- Employment Standards Branch of BC if your employer is provincially regulated, and Employment Standards (Canada) if your employer is federally regulated.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
- The Clicklaw common question "I’ve been dismissed (fired) without just cause."
- Service Canada, and particularly their resources on Employment Insurance: the EI Homepage.
Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Trevor Thomas, March 2017.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
The legal principle under which courts are bound to follow the principles established by previous courts in similar cases dealing with similar facts; the system of justice used in non-criminal cases in all provinces and territories except Quebec.
A duty, whether contractual, moral, or legal in origin, to do or not do something. See "duty."
A court proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called a "lawsuit" or a "case." An action for divorce, for example, is a court proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.
In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. Also the historic decisions of the court. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."
In law, a lawsuit, an action, or a cause of action; the wrongful act of another which gives rise to a claim for relief. See "action" and "cause of action."
A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government, or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.
A mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision," and "declaration."
The assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding.
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
A lawyer or a person other than a lawyer who helps clients with legal issues; to argue a position on behalf of a client.
A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person, who is not a guardian, with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."