Toronto Employment Contract Lawyer
Employment contracts are notoriously complex documents and are often at the heart of many employment law disputes. Employment contracts set out the obligations and expectations of both employees and employers for the duration of the employment relationship. To withstand judicial scrutiny, the terms of an employment agreement must be specific, clear, and unambiguous.
The employment contract governs an employee’s entitlements while employed and their entitlements should they be terminated. Given the significance and consequence of the agreement, an employee must understand and appreciate the potential impact of all terms before signing.
A valid employment contract must comply with applicable legislation. However, employers often attempt to reduce or avoid their statutory obligations through various terms within the agreement. Employment contracts that do not comply with the relevant legislation risk being invalidated and set aside.
Haynes Law Firm in Toronto helps employees negotiate favourable employment contracts with competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits packages, and maximum entitlements. Firm founder Paulette Haynes is a seasoned employment lawyer, professor and author. Paulette has worked with employers and employees on both sides of the negotiation table since 1994, giving her a deep understanding of the issues on both sides. Paulette is also an experienced Legal Studies Professor, regularly teaching classes on contract law and advocacy.
Paulette assists employees at all stages of their careers to secure their rights and entitlements. At the start of a new employment relationship, Paulette negotiates on behalf of employees to secure favourable terms within the employment contract. During employment, Paulette assists employees to enforce the terms of their agreements. And at the end of an employment relationship, Paulette ensures employees receive maximum compensation and all the benefits to which they are entitled.
Negotiate Employment Contracts Before Signing
Employment contracts are complex, nuanced and legally binding. Small changes to the terms of the agreement or missing details can have devastating and far-reaching implications. Employment contracts are almost always drafted by employers and are designed to be self-serving. Employers often use outdated boilerplate language in contracts without checking whether the terms are still compliant with the law. Newly hired employees should never sign an employment contract without first having it reviewed by legal counsel.
People are often hesitant to negotiate the terms of the employment contract for fear it may jeopardize their opportunity; however, this is not the time to be timid. A poorly drafted or lacking employment contract can significantly impact entitlements during employment and upon termination, when employees are particularly vulnerable, both emotionally and financially. The team at Haynes Law Firm will review the terms of your employment contract to ensure it’s fair, comprehensive and valid and will identify any red flags that have the potential to negatively or unfairly impact you during or post-employment.
Key Clauses to Review Before Signing an Employment Contract
The Termination Clause
The termination clause, or clauses, within the employment agreement set out your entitlements, and your employer’s obligations, in the event of termination. Employment contracts are often initially designed to limit the employer’s liability with respect to employee compensation.
Termination clauses should be carefully reviewed to ensure the language provides the minimum protections under the law. Under Ontario employment legislation, employers must provide employees with reasonable notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice. In addition to notice, employers must also provide employee benefits for the duration of the notice period. The duration of notice must be commensurate with the length of service.
A restrictive covenant is a clause preventing an ex-employee from engaging in activities that compete with their former employer’s business. Two common types of restrictive covenant used in employment contracts are non-solicitation and non-compete clauses.
A non-solicitation clause is aimed at preventing employees from contacting or soliciting business from former clients when employed by a new employer.
A non-compete clause (also known as a non-competition clause) limits the type of employment an employee can seek for a specific period of time after leaving their present employer. As of November 30, 2021, employment contracts falling under the Employment Standards Act cannot include non-compete clauses. The only exceptions to this prohibition are employment contracts for chief executive positions, and non-compete clauses in the context of the sale of a business.
Non-solicitation and non-compete clauses (where permitted by law) must be drafted with care to ensure they are not overly constrictive or unfairly limit employment prospects post-termination. Courts are reluctant to place unreasonable limitations on an individual’s ability to secure new employment, so the onus is on the employer to demonstrate that the clauses are reasonable. Rather than necessitating expensive litigation after termination to have an unfair term invalidated, it is best to negotiate a revision of these terms prior to signing the contract.
Changing the Terms of the Employment Contract After Signing
Once the employment contract is signed, its terms will govern the employment period until the employee resigns, retires, or is terminated. Any changes to an existing agreement require the consent of both the employer and the employee and should be documented in writing before the changes are implemented. Employers who attempt to make changes to the agreed terms of the employment contract unilaterally may invite a claim for constructive dismissal. An employee who has been constructively dismissed is entitled to compensation in the form of termination pay and severance.
Implied Employment Contracts
If the employer and employee did not enter into a written agreement, courts will imply an agreement between the parties, in which the terms are governed by legislation and common law. Courts generally place an onus on the employer to make any limitations on an employee’s rights explicit by including them in a written agreement. In the absence of a valid contract, an employee is entitled to the standard rights afforded by relevant legislation. This commonly includes all entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, human rights legislation, and the case law.
Contact Haynes Law Firm in Toronto for Employee Contract Review and Negotiation
Toronto employment lawyer Paulette Haynes and her team of employment professionals at Haynes Law Firm work with employees to help them negotiate the terms of their employment agreement. The firm represents employees seeking to enforce their employment contract throughout their employment and upon termination. To discuss how Haynes Law Firm can assist you with your employment contract matter, please contact us online, or call us by phone at 416-593-2731.