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I’m part of a mass layoff. What rights do I have?

With recent mass layoffs at Target, Suncor and SNC-Lavalin, many workers have been left scratching their heads as they try to sort through a maze of advice gleaned from the Internet, the media, or anyone else professing expertise in the law of dismissal. Here are some of the most common questions any dismissed employee should be asking, and the answers they ought to receive:

THE QUESTION

What is the difference between a termination and a layoff?

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THE ANSWER

Some layoffs are temporary, implying the employees may be recalled. These situations are referred to as a "temporary layoff." Otherwise, a permanent layoff, such as the announcement by Target, has the same legal meaning as a termination.

THE QUESTION

I know that other employees with less tenure are receiving more severance than me. Is this illegal?

THE ANSWER

No. Tenure is only one factor to consider. If a less tenured employee is older, has a more specialized job or if there are other circumstances that could make it harder for him or her to find another job, then the fact they are receiving more severance is not unusual.

THE QUESTION

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I'm soon to be a former employee of Target. Will I receive employment insurance?

THE ANSWER

You will be eligible to apply for employment insurance because the mass layoff means you are losing your job through no fault of your own. But whether you actually will receive EI, for how long, and the specific amounts, will be based on how many hours you worked during the last year before the layoff, your rate of pay, and where you live.

THE QUESTION

What happens if I want to sue Target?

THE ANSWER

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Target was granted protection from its creditors, meaning that any employee lawsuits will be postponed and those employees who sue will be unsecured creditors, unlikely to see any real payment for their claims after the company's others debts have been paid.

THE QUESTION

My benefits are not being continued following my termination, should they be?

THE ANSWER

Generally, yes. Provinces in Canada handle this slightly differently from each other but most require the continuation of benefits for the minimum period of time prescribed by employment standards legislation. The courts also require the continuation of benefits following a termination, or if those benefits cannot be continued, pay in lieu of the loss of those benefits.

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

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E-mail: Dan@canadaemploymentlawyer.com

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