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What are our rights as employees and employers?

What are some of the most common questions you're asked about employee and employer rights in the workplace?

Workers and employers like to cling to beliefs about workplace rights they glean from media, friends or researching on the Internet. However, many of these "perceived" rights often do not exist. Here are some common misconceptions.

Termination on maternity leave? Terminating employees during maternity leave is illegal. But in reality it happens anyway. Why? Simply put, legislation in some provinces contains qualifiers allowing dismissal in cases where the employer can show it was unrelated to the employee's leave, such as where there is a legitimate restructuring. Other provinces prohibit termination during maternity leave, but then allow it as soon as the employee returns.

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Does poor performance influence the amount of severance if fired? Performance reflects merit as an employee, not the severance an employee should receive when terminated. Even if an employee is fired due to poor performance, the severance should be the same as if he or she were laid off in a downsizing or for some other non-performance-related reason.

Must promotions, bonuses or salary be assessed fairly? An employer may decide, often arbitrarily, who it wishes to promote and how it will compensate its employees. It is entitled to show favouritism, as long as its decision is not based on personal characteristics, such as race, religion or gender.

If an employee is terminated, will he or she receive Employment Insurance? Yes. It is only employees who are terminated for misconduct or those who resign who may be ineligible for EI.

Are employers allowed to view my personal social media activity when considering me for a job? Yes. There is no law prohibiting an employer from researching online profiles, such as Facebook and Twitter, and often they do. Hiring or firing decisions can then be made on the basis of what they uncover about employees' personal lives as long as those decisions are not based on personal characteristics, such as race, religion or sexual orientation.

Are employees entitled to a letter of reference? No matter how strong or meritorious an employee's service, there are no laws compelling an employer to provide a letter of reference to a current or former employee.

Do you have a question on careers, labour law or management? Send it in to our panel of experts, which includes career coaches, a recruitment expert and an employment lawyer:

Please be advised that while The Globe and Mail may publish your submission, your name and address will be kept confidential.

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