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THE QUESTION

I was off work for three months following an operation. This was the second operation I had recently. As soon as I returned to work, I was fired. The worst part is that because my former employer has less than 50 employees, they can fire me for whatever reason they want. I have zero protection or rights with the Ministry of Labour. What a joke.

THE ANSWER

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Wrong. You cannot be fired because you were away from work owing to an illness. This is discrimination and you can complain to a provincial or federal human rights tribunal and seek damages for lost wages, pain and suffering. You can even seek reinstatement with back pay. The size of the work force does not matter when there is a claim for discrimination.

THE QUESTION

I accepted a job offer three months ago and now the company says they cannot hire me due to financial issues. Do I have legal recourse to request financial compensation for the three months I was waiting to start the job?

THE ANSWER

You can sue for your damages while you look for another job, or you can sue for damages for not having looked for another job while waiting for your contract to begin.

A court may not award you the entire three months' compensation, owing to factors such as your ability to get another job, or a clause in the contract that limits your damages had that contract been performed.

However, if you signed an agreement that was cancelled before work began, it is still a breach of that contract.

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THE QUESTION

I am 63 years old and have worked for a company for 8 1/2 years in finance. I was given notice that my job will be terminated in 10 months. There is no offer of severance pay at the end of the 10-month period. Am I entitled to any money from the company? Is this legal?

THE ANSWER

You are entitled to fair notice of your termination considering your age, tenure, position and re-employment prospects.

While this may be more than 10 months, considering your circumstances and your age, your employer is permitted to have you work during this period, instead of paying you to leave. This is referred to as "working notice" of termination, and it is legal.

The only requirement is that your job must remain the same during the working-notice period as it was before you were notified of your termination. This includes being given meaningful work to perform.

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Many employees may resent having to work for their severance, but it is often easier to find another job while still employed.

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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