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THE QUESTION

I recently left my company to start a business. We do not directly compete with my ex-employer but we are in the same space. They must not be pleased because I received a legal letter from their lawyers telling me not to contact their clients. I never signed anything that said I could not compete or contact clients.

Should I stand down or do they have a case against me?

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THE ANSWER

Unless you signed an agreement that unequivocally prohibits you from competing or contacting clients for a reasonably defined period of time, you are generally allowed to do so. There are a couple of narrow exceptions to this rule, such as misusing confidential information that you kept from your former employer (for instance, a client contact list) or where you held such an important role at your former employer that they are particularly vulnerable to your actions after departure.

Unless you are doing something wrong, and it does not sound like you are, then there is no reason to back off.

THE QUESTION

What is the difference between statutory severance pay and severance pay? I'm terminating an employee and don't have a payroll size that requires me to pay severance, but I'm still being told that I have to pay severance. Why?

THE ANSWER

There are two different types of "severance." Statutory severance pay is just a minimum. It is like a minimum wage. Employees can be (and most often are) entitled to more than the statutory severance pay, just like they are often entitled to more than minimum wage.

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This greater entitlement, which can be much larger than the minimum statutory amount, is also commonly called "severance" and because the name is the same, it can be confusing. However, this payment is still legally required in most cases and is not dependent on payroll size.

Daniel A. Lublin is a partner at Whitten & Lublin, representing both employers and employees in workplace legal disputes.

E-mail: Dan@canadaemploymentlawyer.com

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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