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What can we do if a colleague emits a strong odour? Add to ...

Question: We need guidance regarding a recent hire. The person constantly has bad breath, a strong body odour and smelly feet. She was hired to meet with my clients, but I can’t expose them to this. Over the past three months, we have had to deal with it every day and realize it’s not an occasional thing. We simply don’t know how to address this without crossing any lines – legal or otherwise. What are our rights, without crossing any barriers?

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Answer: Some of the causes of the odour could be protected under human rights laws, such as disability, which means discipline or dismissal is prohibited unless you can show she cannot perform the job you hired her for because of the smell. If the smell is because of poor hygiene, then you have more options and can treat this as any other form of non-compliance with the company’s expectations.

Can my company pick and choose whom to fire?

Question: I work for a major oil company and have been recently told that I will be laid off soon because they have changed the requirements so that a trade would be mandatory to continue in my position. There are “exceptions” to the rule apparently, as two people in the same role as I am have been told they will be able to continue on although they do not have a trade either. One is a family member of a manager in the company. Can the company do this?

Answer: Yes. The company can terminate you for any reason except for discrimination on human rights grounds and it does not matter if the company picks and chooses who it terminates and on what basis it made that decision. The only issue is whether or not your severance package is fair.

Is my severance reasonable?

Question: I was working under a 31/2-year contract with a municipal government. That contract was terminated without warning 11/2 years in, due to a reorganization. I was given two weeks’ salary in lieu of notice. My position was mid-level, paying $70,000 annually. They extended my family benefits for four weeks after I asked. Does this severance seem reasonable? I don’t think it’s likely that I can find a new job in two weeks. I did not have to sign anything at dismissal. Does it make sense to pursue additional compensation?

Answer: Depending on your age, you could easily be entitled to two to four months of severance, not two weeks. The test to determine what you are owed is based predominately on your age, tenure and precedents for similar situations. Also, depending on the wording of the contract, you might even be entitled to the entire two years’ pay remaining on the original contract term. If a contract is for a fixed-term, then it cannot be terminated early without paying the remaining amount, unless there is contractual language that permits exactly that.

Daniel A. Lublin is a partner at Whitten & Lublin, employment and labour lawyers. E-mail:Dan@canadaemploymentlawyer.com

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