January 6th, 2017
Written By:
Can I be fired for no reason?

Employees can be fired “without cause” in B.C. This means that you can simply be asked to leave, with no reason given for the termination of your employment. Here’s a Q&A for anyone who has faced or is worried about facing a without cause dismissal.

I have always been a good worker for my company. How are they allowed to fire me without any reason?

Many employees think that their company can’t fire them unless they are doing a bad job.
Employees often ask me questions like the ones below:

  • “I have been a loyal worker, and have always had excellent performance reviews. My company just fired me without any reason. Is this legal?”
  • “My company just fired me “without cause”. What does this mean? I thought my company needed a reason to fire me.”
  • “My company fired me, and brought in a new worker to fill my job. Are they allowed to do this?”

No Reason Needed For Dismissals

A common misconception is that a company can’t fire an employee unless the employee does something wrong at work. In reality, companies are entitled to fire employees “without cause”. This is true even if the employee has been a top performer.

A “without cause” dismissal means that the employee didn’t prompt the termination. A company might fire an employee “without cause” because of downsizing, restructuring, or even personal fit.

A company doesn’t have to give a specific reason for a “without cause” dismissal. This can be very frustrating for an employee. However, when a company terminates an employee without cause, it does need to provide the employee with the appropriate notice or severance instead of notice.

No Discriminatory Dismissals

Companies don’t need a reason to fire an employee “without cause”. But, a company can’t fire an employee for discriminatory reasons.

For example, a company can’t fire someone because of their religion, race, disability or sexual orientation. For a full list of prohibited workplace discrimination factors, click this link to section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code.

No Dismissals for Safety Complaints or Injury Claims

A company can’t lawfully fire an employee because of a Worksafe BC claim, or because the employee raised a workplace safety issue.

Worksafe BC has a process in place for addressing such dismissals. Click this link to read about the Worksafe BC discriminatory action complaints process.

No Dismissals for Protected Leaves

A company can’t lawfully fire an employee because they took a protected leave, like maternity leave or jury duty.

Click this link for a list of the workplace leaves which are protected under the Employment Standards Act.

Summary

Companies can fire employees “without cause” at any time for almost any reason. The main exceptions to a company’s right to fire “without cause” are set out above. There may be other circumstances unique to a case which may be worth discussing with a lawyer.

Regardless of whether a termination was with or without cause, it’s always a good idea to talk with a lawyer. A quick chat can help to determine if the termination was discriminatory or retaliatory, which can result in damages. A lawyer can also help to review the termination package and determine whether the package is reasonable.

The company’s severance offer might not be appropriate even when the language in the termination letter may seem to be. Severance entitlements are complicated and depend on many factors.

In you are concerned your dismissal wasn’t really “without cause”, or to make sure you receive the proper severance entitlement in your own situation, contact the writer, Jonas McKay, or any of the HHBG Lawyers at 604.696.0556 to schedule an appointment.

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