Executive dismissal: a brief (and practical) overview
Executives and managers are not ordinary employees. There is a high degree of trust and responsibility in those roles. Accordingly, the stakes are higher and the situations more complex when it comes to executive dismissals.
When an executive has been fired there are many concerns about their situation: money, reputation, finding another job, fair treatment… Executives often have significant entitlements but the wrong move can prove extremely costly.
If you have been, or are about to be, fired or forced out the first thing you should do is contact an expert employment lawyer. That may sound self-serving, an employment lawyer’s website recommending you contact a lawyer, but the truth is that it is simply the most prudent course of action to maintain your rights and advance your interests.
Employment law is tricky. In Quebec, there is a distinction between how executives and managers are treated vs other employees. Then there are the delay periods. For some cases, such as constructive dismissal, the delays for filing legal claim are extremely short. After the delay runs out, the law considers silence to be de facto consent to changes in your employment contract. Without a working knowledge of employment law, it is very easy to accidentally damage your case or bar your own claims.
There is also the flip side. If you have been given a fair severance offer, been dismissed for sufficient cause, or any number of other circumstances where you have been treated decently then you should not pursue legal action. It is far better to know this ASAP. Partly because this will prevent your wasting time and money, but also so you don’t miss out on an easy and timely solution to your problem.
A good employment lawyer will ask for your objectives and give you a clear assessment on:
- Whether anything can be done
- Whether the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs
- What your best course of action is
This avoids wasting your time and your money. If you have a fair offer or a bad case, it’s far better to learn this sooner. That way you can get on with your life. However, if you do have a case that’s worthwhile for you to pursue timeliness is also a factor. The longer it takes for you to contact an expert employment lawyer, the more your case can lapse, and the worse the position you can find yourself in.
Once you have a strategy in place, adjustments will still need to be made as time goes on. Nothing in law is guaranteed or static.
Your Expert Labour and Employment Lawyers in Montreal, Laval and West Island
What you should tell your lawyer immediately
There are many factors that can determine what you are legally entitled to and that can affect your options. There are a number of factors which your lawyer should know in order to give you a fair assessment of your options. These include:
- How long you worked at the company
- Your yearly salary and how it is broken down (base salary, bonus/STIP, stock options/RSUs/PSUs/LTIPs, benefits, car allowance, pension, etc…)
- Your position
- If you were fired in a manner that is detrimental to your reputation or career
- The likelihood of finding a similar position
- Job performance reviews
- The reasons the company gave for your dismissal
- Whether you have been harassed or been discriminated against in the workplace
- Whether you have been accused of harassment or discrimination in the workplace
The most frequent remedy is fair severance pay. Other remedies you may be entitled to include your employer helping you find new employment or even being re-hired outright. The remedies available to you always depend on your circumstances and on what you want.
Whether you have been dismissed, wrongfully dismissed or constructively dismissed, you are entitled to fair treatment. Practically speaking, this means severance pay. Severance pay is often offered by the employer, however, in many cases, that offer is not a fair one. Before accepting a severance pay package you should always consult an expert to make sure the offer is fair.
Types of Dismissal
Some of the main issues include:
Constructive dismissal is akin to being dismissed, but without being told that this is the case. Constructive dismissals are often imposed upon executives and managers with the goal of making them leave their employment without compensation. Constructive dismissal is highly complex. There is a very short period of time in which the employee has the opportunity to contest the change/situation or file a lawsuit. If you exceed this delay then your case has automatically been destroyed. Constructive dismissal is also inherently a grey zone and the specific context and facts of your circumstances are key to determining what to do. If you believe this has happened to you, contact a constructive dismissal lawyer immediately. It is important to learn ASAP:
- Whether something can be done or not
- Whether the benefits of acting are likely to exceed the costs
- What the right course of action is for you
Due to the severe time constraints and the high complexity, the sooner you contact a constructive dismissal attorney the better off you’ll be.
Dismissal (for a legitimate reason) is where you have been officially dismissed from your job in some combination of the following circumstances:
- No reproaches have been made of you
- You have no reason to believe that you’ve been targeted by the dismissal or treated unfairly
- You believe that the reason you’ve been given for your dismissal is true
There are many legitimate reasons for dismissal, but you are often still entitled to severance pay and, depending on the reason, you may also be entitled to your employers’ assistance in finding a new job and/or a referral letter. In this circumstance, it is necessary to evaluate whether the offer made is fair to you and your particular circumstances. Relevant circumstances that affect severance pay can include:
- Years of service
- Position held
- Ease of replacing position (for you)
- Time of year when the termination occurred
- Circumstances of the dismissal
- Organizational culture of the company
- Economic circumstances
- Whether there is any reputational damage
Based on a review of your case and your specific circumstances, we will be able to give you an honest assessment as to whether it is worthwhile for to engage our services to negotiate your severance package or whether the cost would not be worth the gain. Our methodology is pragmatic. We are prepared to litigate (provided it’s in our clients best interests) however we begin with negotiating where possible since (as long as the opposing side is willing to be reasonable) this leads to a guaranteed good result not subject to appeal. Negotiation also often means you will get your compensation more quickly than with litigation. We are proud that our strategy and tenacity has allowed many of our clients to achieving excellent results with negotiation thus avoiding the inherent uncertainties of litigation.
Wrongful dismissal is a broad category that covers many different circumstances. It can include:
- being unfairly fired under false pretenses (ex: being told your position was being eliminated when it has been given to someone else, etc…),
- being fired for reproaches that are unfair or exaggerated,
- your employer has alleged a legitimate reason for your dismissal that isn’t true,
- circumstances where your employer has behaved abusively (ex: being headhunted and then fired, being lured away from a position elsewhere and then fired, being fired right after returning from sick leave, etc…)
If you have been dismissed from your job for any reason other than a legitimate reason then you should seek expert advice immediately from a wrongful dismissal lawyer. You may have significant rights but the deadline for taking action is often extremely short. It is therefore vital to know as soon as possible what your position is, what your options are, and if it makes sense to pursue any legal action.
Age discrimination involving executives and managers is a growing problem. Executives are starting to work later into their careers at the same time that workplace culture is gearing itself more towards hiring younger replacement workers. Age discrimination is when older executives or managers are subjected to pressure to leave their position. This can be done in many ways, some of which are very subtle. Executives and managers have a right to expect a workplace free from discrimination. They should be allowed to progress in their careers as long as they would like. Age alone is not a justifiable impediment to those goals. With some strategic planning and a little forward thinking, this is often a solvable problem.
Harassment is a very difficult and emotionally damaging issue for people to experience. For executives and managers there are also significant financial and reputational considerations. No one should tolerate unfair treatment at the hands of their employers, colleagues, or employees. If you have been or are being harassed then your employment circumstances need to be remedied so you can work safely & freely. No one should need to tolerate harassment or be forced out of their position because of it.
However, if you have been falsely accused of harassment, this is also a matter that needs to be taken care of immediately. False harassment claims can both make it harder for legitimate harassment claims to be taken seriously and damage your reputation, making it harder for you in a number of ways such as: being forced out of your current position, preventing you from receiving fair compensation for your termination, and making it harder for you to find another job.