Welcome to Nixon Wenger LLP
Employment law involves the professional relationship between companies and non-union employees. Most non-union employment contracts are unwritten, but they are, nevertheless, contracts. Although the law which governs employee contracts is found in statutes such as the Employment Standards Act, their interpretation and enforcement is left largely to the courts.
Our lawyers represent employers or employees in wrongful dismissal actions, application of provincial and federal workplace statutes, advice on the main obligations or terms of non-union employment relationships, drafting advice on written contracts of non-solicitation and non-competition clauses, golden parachute compensation plans and arbitration clauses.
Employment Law Services
Many employees in British Columbia carry on employment under the Employment Standards Act. This legislation generally establishes the basic entitlements of employees with respect to compensation, hours of work, vacation and leaves of absence, among other things.
Our lawyers are familiar with the obligations of both employers and employees under the Employment Standards Act and are capable in both advising and representing clients on claims or potential claims arising under this legislation.
Employment Contracts & Dismissal
Ending an employment relationship is never easy. There are many thorny issues that frequently arise in the course of termination such as the fair amount of notice, how to communicate the dismissal, and what ongoing obligations may the employer and employee have to each other following conclusion of the employment relationship.
A good employment contract can provide clarity on these issues. Regardless of whether the employment contract is written, verbal or by conduct, our lawyers are able to provide advice in bringing resolution to all issues arising out of the employment relationship including termination. Our lawyers are able to act proactively for clients in contract drafting and negotiating both before and during the course of the employment relationship. After termination of the employment relationship, we are able to act for clients in negotiating resolution of outstanding issues or advancing our clients’ interests in court, before the various employment related tribunals, or before arbitrators as the circumstances require.
Health & Safety
Recent years have brought heightened scrutiny of the employer’s duty to maintain workplace safety for employees. Health and Safety refers not only to risk of physical injury, but also mental health.
Our lawyers will assist you with the duties and obligations of both employers and employees in issues related to workplace health and safety. We are able to act for either employers or employees where allegations of failure are brought forward regarding their health and safety responsibilities.
The British Columbia Human Rights Code prohibits employers from discriminating. Where an employer fails in this duty, or is alleged to have failed in this duty, the outcome is often a claim for discrimination brought before the Human Rights Tribunal.
Our lawyers are experienced in advancing and defending human rights complaints and are capable in advising clients at every stage of a potential or actual dispute.
The relationship between employer and employee is not just governed by the employment contract but is also subject to many legislative provisions found in various statutes. It is often worth obtaining legal advice when unfamiliarity with the respective rights and obligations of each party.
Looking forward to address problems before they arise and being solution focused can save both time and money in the long-run.
Our Employment Law Team
Employment Law FAQ’s
I’m purchasing the assets of a business and I intend to hire the employees as well. However, I may wish to terminate employment of certain employees shortly after the purchase. Since I am only buying the assets of the business, should I be concerned?
The Employment Standards Act provides that if you are purchasing the assets of a business and if you are taking on the employees at the same time, their employment will be deemed to be continuous. Therefore, if you terminate an employee, you will still be liable for the entire length of their service to the company you purchased as well as their time with you. Notwithstanding these continuation provisions, it typically makes sense to require the seller to terminate the employment of all of their employees and then rehire their employees on substantially the same terms and conditions. This may not be particularly useful with respect to employment standards severance provisions but at the common law it can reduce your obligations to the employee to the time you have actually employed the employee. Putting an appropriate employment contract in place for each such employee can also serve to reduce your liability, including by explicitly stating whether or not you are prepared to give credit for past years of service. These terms and conditions are often critical to the negotiation of both asset purchase and share purchase agreements. They should be given appropriate consideration at the time of entering into such agreement and we encourage you to seek legal advice. These considerations are equally important to the seller of a business.
My employee routinely shows up late for work, takes extended lunch breaks and often dishonestly calls in sick. Am I permitted to terminate their employment for cause? I really wouldn’t be happy to pay them a severance package for being a poor employee.
Without established company policies and notes documenting your employee’s non-compliance with those policies and letters giving notice to your employee of their non-compliance you will have a difficult time establishing that your employee ought to be terminated for cause. We can assist employers to put in place appropriate policies and monitoring procedures to ensure that employees are aware of when they are not in compliance with those policies.
We can also assist with communicating appropriately with employees whose conduct or performance needs to improve.
I have been let go by my employer and have been offered a severance package that my employer tells me complies with the Employment Standards Act. Am I obligated to take this package?
In most cases your employer is obligated to comply with the minimum standards in the Employment Standards Act. However, under common law you may also be entitled to receive notice or pay in lieu of notice that exceeds the amount established by the Act. There are a number of factors that go into making such a determination such as your age, how long you were employed, you level of responsibility, and how easily you will be able to find alternate employment. We would be pleased to speak to you about your situation.
How long do I have to sue if I have a dispute/claim/injury?
Recent changes to the Limitation Act have shortened the time you have to sue before the limitation takes effect and ends your claim. Most claims are now 2 years. Get legal advice early so your rights are protected.