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THE QUESTION

I am a 63-year-old executive director for a non-profit. The board and I discussed an organizational change that would mean hiring a new chief executive officer.

In talks, I believed I would ride out to the end of my contract and then transition to a lower position. Instead, I have been told to be a consultant to the new CEO and that a new position will likely not be created for me. I told the vice-chair of the board that I felt consulting was outside my contract.

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She agreed and I am now awaiting a buy-out offer.

Am I entitled to severance on top of the contract payout? My expectation was that I would continue to be employed until I was 65. Can I expect further compensation, or does the end of my contract negate this?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Eileen Dooley

Vice-president, VF Career Management, Calgary

When a new CEO arrives, chances are they do not want you hanging around – and for good reason. Although your knowledge of the role is valuable and could be helpful to an incoming CEO, the reality is the new person likely wants to start off with a clean slate, regardless of the agreement you made with the board.

I worked with an organization where the overlap between executive directors was two years. It's uncomfortable for the incoming ED as the outgoing one is always hanging around. Plus, for staff, there's confusion about who to go to for information and decisions.

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Talk to a lawyer and get your severance and exit strategy in place. Work in a career transition program so you can get assistance and leave on good terms to move toward a new, fresh role.

THE SECOND ANSWER

George Cottrelle

Partner, Keel Cottrelle LLP, TorontoAssuming your employment agreement is clearly worded, terminating your employment on completion of the term would not result in any additional entitlement. In most provinces, the notice requirements of the applicable employment legislation would apply to your fixed-term contract, and were likely complied with. A written agreement can be verbally amended. If there was an agreement to extend your employment past the termination date for an indefinite period, which your employer then breached, this could give rise to additional rights. The employer may dispute that there was an agreement to extend your employment, on any basis, past the termination date, notwithstanding its express representations. Your employer constructively dismissed your employment prior to completion of the term, after you had agreed to an early transition, relying on the promise of continued employment. We assume you anticipate the buy-out package will be based on your compensation to the end of the contract term, but not beyond. If you can substantiate the employer's representations of transitioning your position, and continuing your employment beyond the term, then you may be entitled to some additional compensation. This amount would not be based on your expectation to work to 65, as there were no discussions with your employer in that regard.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

‘They care a lot about values, they care about the purpose of organizations, they want to be inspired’ Special to Globe and Mail Update

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