Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I received in 2010 – and the advice I provide for employees in 2011:
Poor performance reviews
Employees often disagree with poor reviews but seldom take steps to challenge them. If you have received a review you disagree with, then immediately respond, in writing, by setting out your concerns with the review and providing any explanations for your behaviour. Then request that the review be redone, or at the least, that your statements be placed in the human resources file.
Employers own workplace computers and Internet servers so anything you send through company email can be monitored without notice and used as grounds for discipline. Do not misuse workplace computers for personal matters.
Employees do not realize an implied contract with their employer exists whether or not it is in writing and that implied contract is always more favourable than anything they will be asked to sign. Contracts are generally drafted by employers and serve to displace a number of important rights. Negotiate contracts or sign them only as a last resort.
Post employment competition
Employees are free to leave and compete with their employers, just as they are free to solicit their old clients and contacts following their departure. Without an agreement stating otherwise, the only post employment restriction an employee has is to keep confidential information confidential.
Employers frequently offer employees less severance than they are entitled to, knowing that most employees will agree to what they are first offered, since they are usually happy to get anything at all. Do not assume you have received a fair offer just because your employer says it is so.
Despite recent high-profile class action lawsuits claiming overtime pay, busy employees “forced” to work through lunch, for example, should not suddenly begin to line up outside my office door. Not every employee is entitled to overtime. Employment standards legislation across Canada creates various exceptions and thresholds for overtime pay and provincial dispute resolution mechanisms provide cost effective alternatives to bringing court actions for overtime.
Daniel A. Lublin is an employment lawyer with Whitten & Lublin LLP. Dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com.