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THE QUESTION

A senior analyst was recruited to a firm with a significant salary bump and a wider research portfolio.

He'd been with his previous firm for eight years and that firm was unhappy about his decision to leave.

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After 18 months with the new firm, it was determined he was not a good fit and let go.

What is the appropriate severance payout? The first employer was displeased about his departure and won't rehire, and now he must overcome the possible damage to his reputation in a small field of players.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Daniel Lublin

Partner at Whitten & Lublin employment lawyers, Toronto

An employee who is dismissed relatively soon after being recruited or induced to leave one job for another should receive a greater severance package.

There are a couple key factors:

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The longer the employee's past history with the prior employer, the greater the value the recruitment will have on his current severance.

Conversely, the longer the employee stays with the new company, the lesser the value the recruitment will have on his current severance.

Most court cases have found that, after three to four years at the new company, the fact an employee was recruited loses its importance altogether.

It can also be difficult to pinpoint exactly how much value the "recruitment factor" will have in any given case.

Some judges will link the past tenure with the old company to the current tenure with the new one and assess a severance package based on the entire connected tenure. However, other judges will only consider the recruitment as worth a "bump-up" to whatever severance should have otherwise been provided.

Keep in mind that the value of any recruitment is always tied to the usual factors when assessing severance, such as age, position and re-employability. Therefore, reputational damage (if real and not just perceived) can also be applied to increase the severance award.

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THE SECOND ANSWER

Eileen Dooley

Vice-president, VF Career Management, Calgary office

Being let go after a short period of time is not uncommon – sometimes the fit is just not there, and both the employee and the employer know it. Or sometimes the job becomes redundant, or is affected by cuts. Either way, it is important for the analyst to be honest with his network and future employers as to why he was let go. If the job was eliminated because of restructuring, just say it.

What's troubling, though, is why the previous employer was not happy about the departure. If it was simply because they did not want to lose a good person, well, that happens. But if the employee left on negative terms, that is another concern and, yes, those stories do get around.

When leaving a job, it is important to leave the same way you entered – on a high note. Anything less than that will jeopardize a person's chances of obtaining a reference.

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