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THE QUESTION

I have been employed by a small company for 26 years. While on parental leave, I discovered through social media and news releases that the company is closing my location, effective immediately, as it "is no longer solvent." What options or recourse do I have available in light of my 26-plus years of service and the fact that my employer has not contacted me at all in the course of four weeks (since the announcement was made to the media and other staff) about these circumstances?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Daniel Lublin Partner at Whitten & Lublin employment lawyers, Toronto

Contrary to popular belief, individuals on maternity or parental leave can lose their jobs – so long as the termination was unrelated to having a baby or taking a subsequent leave. Company closures or mass layoffs are one of the most prevalent scenarios where employees on leave can be let go without leading to a discrimination complaint.

However, this does not leave you without recourse altogether as you would still be entitled to termination or severance pay, which should be substantial given your long tenure. As long as the company does not go bankrupt or into creditor protection, there are usually severance packages offered upon a closure or at least an ability to take legal action if no severance is offered.

Since the company may be hiding behind your absence to avoid contacting you and dealing with your severance claim, you should act early by reaching out to human resources or management employees to assert your right to severance before it may be too late.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro Director of people, Saje Natural Wellness

My advice would be to act as soon as possible on your end and contact your company about how this affects you.If you signed a leave-of-absence agreement, there may be processes in place for communication and policies that affect you while on leave to reference and help you discover your next steps during this time.

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Although you are on leave, in the event of a closure or mass layoff, where in essence your job is deleted, you can still be subject to a layoff. With that said, you would be entitled to severance, so I would encourage you to follow up with them as soon as possible.

Also, there may be opportunities for other positions within the company as a result of the location shutdown, which you should also inquire about. All the best in your next steps.

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

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