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Business Law

Wrongful Employment

October 15, 2014 by FH&P Lawyers


I was recently asked – is there such a thing as wrongful employment? There are such things as wrongful termination, illegal hiring practices, and criminal occupations but what about wrongful employment?

The individual asking was a client I knew was unhappy at his job. He felt that the position he had been given was not the one he had applied for. His salary less than he expected; he was given little supervision or direction from his supervisor; his coworkers were unhappy. He decided that the best option was to resign and look for other work. He prepared a letter of resignation giving two weeks’ notice. When he gave the letter to his supervisor the supervisor just laughed and said, “don’t be silly, we’ll make some changes, everything will be fine”.

Some changes were made though his salary remained less than expected and his coworkers remained unhappy. Several weeks after his “resignation” my client asked about his options. “I tried to quit but that didn’t work. Is there such a thing as wrongful employment?”

The short answer is no. You cannot be forced to work. If you want to quit then quit – the boss doesn’t have to agree with your decision. You should check for any obligations triggered by your resignation such as the return of equipment, as well as non-compete or non-solicitation agreements. In BC there is a custom of employees giving two weeks’ notice. It is just that, a custom. Unless your employment contract specifies a certain period of notice you have to give there is no legislative requirement to give any length of notice. If you resign it is a good idea to give notice as your reputation in the community can be affected. A new employer will want to know why you left your last job and will be impressed that you treated that company with respect by giving notice.

If you give notice of your intention to resign and your boss says he will not let you, simply say, “Thank you but this is my decision”. Then stick to it. If you give two weeks’ notice you will not be entitled to any severance pay from your employer beyond your regular pay up to the last day you work. If the boss says, “Clean out your desk today” you will be entitled to severance pay to the lesser of the notice period you gave or the minimum that employers are required to give under the Employment Standards Act.

The Employment Standards Act states that the minimum amounts of notice that employers are required to give is as follows:

  • None for working up to three months;
  • One week for working from three to twelve months;
  • Two weeks for working from one to three years;
  • Three weeks after working for three years plus one week for each year up to eight.