Your employment questions answered

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

From employee time-theft and expense claims, to federal labour strikes and changing remote work plans, the courts and employment lawyers alike have responded to a variety of issues impacting both employers and employees.

As we approach the close of the first half of 2023, Canadian employment law has navigated various twists and turns.

 

From employee time-theft and expense claims, to federal labour strikes and changing remote work plans, the courts and employment lawyers alike have responded to a variety of issues impacting both employers and employees.

 

Here are some of the pressing questions our firm has received this season:

 

Q: My company has just been acquired by another company. I have received a new job description and title, but I expect my compensation to remain the same. I have noticed that there will be other big changes within my company aside from my role. For example, my benefits could be changing, as well as some of our reporting relationships. Do I just simply have to agree with these changes, or is there anything I can do?

 

A: Company acquisitions can often be tough on employees. If you’ve been notified that your job may be changing as a result of an acquisition, it is always a good idea to have any new employment agreement, or offer letter, reviewed by an employment lawyer prior to agreeing to any new terms. In particular, it is important to confirm that you were not required to “resign” from your previous role to accept the new job, that your years of service have been recognized, and that there are no limiting provisions (like termination, non-competition, or non-solicitation) that could impact your current rights under your employment agreement. Acquisitions can present sweeping changes to your workplace culture as well as your role. Sometimes these changes may result in fundamental changes to your employment agreement, so it is worthwhile speaking to a lawyer about whether or not the changes to your role may be a breach of your employment agreement.

 

Q: I was terminated from my employer in February. In my termination letter, my employer indicated that I owe it money for different items including the reimbursement of some expenses and a course they say that I took. My severance offer is now less the amount my company says I owe it on my termination. Is this legal?

 

A: On some occasions, employers may seek the repayment of certain expenses on the termination of an employee. Employers should be very cautious when seeking repayment from an employee on termination. Often repayment requests are largely dependent on whether or not your employment agreement allows your employer to recoup the costs of certain expenses. If your employer paid for expenses on your behalf that were not business related, generally an employer can seek the repayment of those expenses. Prior to signing back your termination letter, review the repayment request with counsel to ensure your employer is not overstepping and applying a repayment amount that is unfair to you.

 

Q: I started at a new company two-and-a-half months ago, and was unexpectedly terminated. I was shocked to see that my termination letter did not offer me anything on termination. Is it possible that my employer doesn’t have to pay me anything now that I have been terminated? I took on many more expenses to take the job, including moving, and am wondering if I can request that my company pay for some of those costs.

 

A: Whether or not you are entitled to more may depend on if you signed an employment agreement with an enforceable probationary period clause. The Employment Standards Act of Ontario does not require a minimum payment to an employee if terminated less than three months from the start date. This, however, isn’t the end of the story, especially if it will take you some time to reemploy. With respect to your moving costs, you may not be entitled to those, but you could be entitled to some damages as a result of your wrongful dismissal.

 

Q: What is the best way to manage a fully remote team? I can see some members of my team going online and “away” throughout the day. I know that team members might be stepping away to take a lunch, or a coffee break, but sometimes it is hard to ascertain productivity. I don’t want to come across as a micro-manager but want to ensure we keep productivity on track. Any advice?

 

A: When employees work in-person, it is common for employees to leave their desk for lunch and to attend to other professional and sometimes personal errands throughout the work day. In order to create transparency, a good idea would be to ask your team to leave a note in a team chat if they are going to be stepping away from their desk for longer than five minutes (aside from their lunch), so that you can have a better understanding of how they work. Having the freedom to take care of some personal administration during the work day can be very rewarding and attractive to remote employees. Asking employees for some additional context about how they work best might well prevent false assumptions and resentment in the future.

 

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at sunira@worklylaw.com and your question may be featured in a future column.

 

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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