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Employee options if wrongfully dismissed

When a person is dismissed from a job, it’s often a crushing experience but none so crushing if it’s an unjustified dismissal.

What are the options of a person who has been wrongfully dismissed?

They can file a complaint against their employers in different ways. The person can try to negotiate with their employer, go through mediation with their employer, or sue their employer.


An employee can start the complaint process by trying, to directly or indirectly, negotiate with their employer. That could involve sending a letter to the employer listing the reasons the employee believes he or she was wrongfully dismissed, or asking for a face to face meeting.

Many times letter writing is engaged where the employee feels they weren’t just wrongfully dismissed but also didn’t get their proper severance. In many cases people will hire lawyers to handle negotiations, as lawyers are familiar with the law around wrongful dismissals and could achieve a more satisfactory result.

If the negotiations with the employer are unsuccessful then the employee can either try to go through a dispute resolution process or sue their employer for wrongful dismissal.

Mediation and arbitration

Mediation doesn’t have to be restricted to the process of mediation alone but can also include arbitration and other dispute resolution processes. The point of dispute resolution is to avoid court which has benefits for both employees and employers. Staying out of court can not only be a cost-saver but also a time-saver.

When a wrongful dismissal is claimed where the employee is unionized, the employee files a union grievance against their employer. A union grievance is a written complaint claiming that the employer breached the collective agreement. The grievance complaint results in grievance proceedings where the dispute is to be resolved and if it fails to be resolved, it can proceed to grievance arbitration.

Even where dispute resolution is not in the union context, it can be quite helpful. In mediation, for instance the mediator is a neutral third party who guides the process and tries to find a mutual satisfactory solution for everyone. Arbitration functions more like court in that the arbitrator, also a neutral third party, hears the employee and employer out and then makes a decision on the case. The arbitrator’s decision at the conclusion of the arbitration is binding.


Going to court is often a very difficult and complicated process. Usually, the route to sue for wrongful dismissal is employed where other negotiations and mediations with the employer have failed.

Lawsuits don’t necessarily have to be costly depending on the amount of damages the employee is seeking.

Every province and territory has a small claims court and if the damages one claims fall at or below the cut-off monetary limit at which a claim can be made, then an employee can sue the employer in small claims court. For example, in Alberta the small claims court limit is $50,000, which is currently the highest limit in Canada. If you are employed in Alberta and your claim is under that amount you would be able to sue in small claims court.

If it’s over that amount you’ll likely have to sue at provincial court.

If you believe you have been wrongfully dismissed, you should consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Unjust dismissal

Employee options if wrongfully dismissed: Negotiation, mediation, lawsuit