Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Back to Basics: I've Been Fired - What Now?

There is a remarkable variety of different circumstances of dismissal.  Yet, for non-union employees, the immediate actions you should take are surprisingly similar across the board.

(1)  Apply for EI benefits.  Maybe you were fired for misconduct.  Maybe not.  Maybe you're receiving pay in lieu of notice.  Maybe not.  But EI recommends applying "as soon as you stop working even if you don't have your Records of Employment."

People fired for misconduct may have their claims denied, but there is absolutely nothing to be lost by applying anyways.  If you are denied, there is an appeal process available, which is usually a good idea to attempt.

(2)  Contact a lawyer.  Maybe you've been offered a package and asked to sign a release.  Maybe just cause is alleged and/or you've been sent on your way without any offer at all.  Maybe your employer just yelled at you over the phone "You're fired!" and hung up with no further adieu.  Regardless, you may or may not have entitlements, which may or may not be significant, and you need to talk to a lawyer to figure out your options.  You should do so before you sign anything and before you try to negotiate directly with the employer.  I cannot emphasize that enough:  Never sign anything after being fired without first consulting a lawyer.

There are a few things you should try to pull together, if possible, when seeing a lawyer about a dismissal, including but not limited to:

  • The termination letter, and any other documentation received from your employer at the time of termination.
  • A copy of any written contract you may have signed.
  • Copies of any disciplinary notices you may have received recently.
  • Your most recent T4.
  • Your most recent pay slips.

If some of those can't be found or aren't applicable, though, don't let that stop you from calling a lawyer about it.  Also, depending on the circumstances, other documents may be relevant as well - medical records and prescriptions, discipline and termination policies and other policies you may have been accused of breaching, etc.  Your lawyer should tell you what he or she needs to see, but at first instance just use your best judgment.

(3)  Dust off your resume.  As your lawyer will tell you, you have an obligation to mitigate any losses you may have suffered.  Either way, starting to look for a job asap is just plain smart, unless your doctor orders you not to.  You may want to take advantage of services available to help with job searches, and depending on your re-employment opportunities it may be worthwhile to update your training or even to train for employment in an entirely different field sometimes.  Talk to your lawyer about that first, though.  Keep a written record of every step you take looking for a job, from digging out the box with your old resume in it to attending job interviews.

(4)  Find a way to manage the stress.  (Note:  I have no association with the linked site, and offer no assurances regarding their services or the safety thereof.)  Until you've settled into a new job and gotten any money you're entitled to from your old employer, you're in for a tough time.  Just walking out of the termination, it's perfectly normal to experience varying levels of shock, and it is often prudent to take a cab home.  (A prudent employer should offer a taxi chit for the purpose, but even if they don't, you should carefully assess whether or not you are able to drive safely.)

Hobbies are useful.  Though you do need to search for a job, you should also make sure that you're not cooped up at home all day.  If you don't play sports, consider taking up running or cycling, or just walking if those are too strenuous for you.  I know people who became very fit and lost a lot of unwanted weight after being fired.  I know of others who ended up spending most of their days in bed and/or in front of the television eating comfort food.  That isn't what you want to do.  You should also turn to friends and family for support; don't shut them out.

In many cases, it will be prudent to see your doctor after being dismissed.  Many people require medication to help with the stress of being fired.  It isn't as bad as it sounds - maybe you just need something to help you sleep at night.  In addition, if your lawyer ultimately thinks a claim for moral damages might be appropriate, medical records are a good starting point.

For some people, it can be a rough ride down a very long road.  Being fired is stressful.  Hunting for a job is stressful.  Not having income is stressful, particularly when legal fees get added to your expenses.  And litigation can be a major source of stress for a prolonged period.  It can be the hardest time in a person's life, and so you need to take your physical and emotional health seriously, right from the outset.  And remember that you aren't alone.  Lots of people get fired, often for little or no fault of their own, and the negative emotions that follow are perfectly normal and natural.  And there are lots of people there to help you.  Friends, family, career support professionals, doctors, lawyers, and others.


This blog is not intended to and does not provide legal advice to any person in respect of any particular legal issue, and does not create a solicitor-client relationship with any readers, but rather provides general legal information. If you have a legal issue or possible legal issue, contact a lawyer.

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