1. Do actually read before signing.
In our modern lives we are presented with a lot of legal documents we must agree to for services. This unfortunately has led to a pattern of just hitting accept on a two-hundred-page End Use License Agreement. A contract of employment, which includes any documents you sign relating to your job no matter the title, should not be two-hundred pages. If after reading it, you have questions, ask a lawyer to go over the contract with you. Think of it as an insurance policy. [If your future employer o1bjects to you having a lawyer review the contract with you, that is a red flag.] This review of a contract by a lawyer is important because it is important that you;
2. Don’t assume a contract is legal or enforceable just because of who wrote it, or that no contract means no rights.
Large companies with HR or Legal departments make mistakes. Case law changes over time, so what was a valid contract last year may now not be valid. The same goes for if you do not have a written contract. The Statute of Frauds only requires written contracts for very specific things, such as real estate transactions. Not having a written contract can be a distinct advantage. The onus of proving a person contracted out of certain parts of the Employment Standards Act will be on the employer. It will be almost impossible to meet without a written contract.
That is why you must remember to;
3. Do get a copy and take it home with you.
If you did 1, this should already be done. Once you are home, scan and physically file any documents you sign. You are likely reading this on a device that can take pictures or have one close by. Take a picture of every page, and make sure it is readable. Treat those photos like they are of a close loved one.
Having a copy you can refer to is important because;
4. Don’t violate the terms of the contract without first seeking legal advice.
If the contract is enforceable, it will govern your interactions with your employer. If you have done 1, 2, and 3, you should know what is in the contract, what it means, and have a copy to refer to if you have questions or concerns. Think of the contract as a personal private law between yourself and your employer.
Speaking of laws;
5. Do obey laws or regulations.
Just because your employer is doing something illegal does not give you the right to also break the law. This can be especially true when dealing with personal or confidential information. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act sets out rules and regulations regarding use of personal information such as employee files or intentions regarding a job. Furthermore, most employment contracts will have a confidentially provision and restrictions on use of company property. This will almost certainly cover company email accounts, and what you can do with those emails.
If the situation is bad enough you are considering violating privacy laws, seek legal advice immediately before violating your employment contract or the law.
This is why you;
6. Don’t rely on non-legal professionals for legal advice.
This includes websites, friends, other employees, HR representatives, or family members. While using government sources or resources from the Law Society of Ontario are good starting points, they are general and will not be specific to your situation. They will also not actually help you resolve the problem. A lawyer will.
That being said;
7. Do exhaust internal options.
If you have a concern at work, raise it with your supervisor or HR person unless it would be impracticable or unsafe to do so. You can do this in tandem with seeking legal advice on how best to handle the situation. In some cases, a lawyer can coach you through how to approach someone, and what to say. Remember, if you are specific, you are serious.
8. Don’t force yourself to suffer.
There have been recent cases where large companies had policies such as where an employee being sexually harassed, they should first talk to the harasser before HR would consider acting. In a similar vein, if you boss tells you to do violate the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which includes harassment and workplace violence, you have a right to refuse to work. This also applies to material changes in your employment, from a reduction in hours or pay, to being terminated with cause. In all these cases, seek legal assistance.
When you do;
9. Do be ready to act.
It can be frightening to leave a job, with all the uncertainty about your next steps and future. A Hamilton employment lawyer will talk you through your options and the likely outcomes. When you meet with a lawyer, be ready to sign a retainer and act. You have suffered enough.
Thanks to electronic filing, the time it takes to launch a court proceeding has been reduced drastically. Originating documents for a lawsuit can be issued by a court in minutes. We work on a streamlined process. This means if an employer refuses to compensate you, or do the specific thing requested we are ready to act. Plus, we always set deadline. If there is no response to our demand letter by 2:00pm, we will be ready to submit the Statement of Claim at 2:01pm.
We invite you to contact us at De Bousquet PC if you require assistance in this matter.