It’s not just as simple as “You’re fired!”

By Charles Thompson

While it may seem quick and easy on television, saying “You’re fired” in real life is not a simple process.

“Dismissing an employee is a serious thing and needs a solid reason,” explains Charles Thompson, who practices employment and labour law at Burchell MacDougall’s Truro office.

“Very serious offences, such as theft, can provoke an immediate firing,” he goes on, “But dismissals are usually based on poor job performance or issues with an employee over a period of time.”
Those issues can constitute just cause, which is the foundation for a dismissal.

If an employee has problems with lateness or attitude, or is not doing their job to the employer’s expectations, the employer should keep a record of the incidents so that, if it becomes necessary to terminate the employee, they have documentation to support their case. The employer should provide evaluations and warnings to the employee, giving them the opportunity to correct their behaviour and get them heading in the right direction.

“If changes in behaviour or performance are not made,” Charles explains, “the employer may have just cause to terminate their employment.”

If an employer has just cause for terminating an employee, they do not have to pay any severance or give the employee any advance notice of the termination once the decision is made.

However, if there is not just cause for the termination, the employer has to provide reasonable notice or pay in lieu of notice (severance) when dismissing the employee.

The Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code lays out the minimum notice required, but common law, which takes into account many factors including the how long an employee has worked, their position and their likelihood of finding new employment, must also be considered.

“It’s not uncommon for businesses to make mistakes in the process,” Charles says, “Especially smaller companies, or companies that are going through the process for the first time. And that’s when I can help.”

In his practice, Charles represents both employers and former employees when a dismissal is disputed.

“Ultimately, it’s up to an employee to know their rights,” he concludes, “And employers need to do their research and due diligence to make sure they’re doing things right.”

This article is for information only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions or would like further information, you should consult a lawyer.