In my last column, I offered my favourite human resources errors. Here are the top mistakes employees can make:
>> Not reviewing an employment contract: Do you wish to give your employer the contractual right to demote you, slash your salary, or even banish you to a far-away location — without legal recourse? Obviously not. Employers present new employees with contracts they have prepared. As a result, the contracts are often loaded with language protecting their legal position. Despite laws that construe ambiguous terms in the employee’s favour, if the contract has been reviewed and executed before employment begins, an employee is often held to the deal.
>> Protest disciplinary letters or negative performance reviews: Unless you challenge discipline or negative appraisals, your employer’s view of the events lurks undisputed in your human resources file, waiting to be used should the need later arise. Unless you agree with both the fact and content of the discipline you have received, respond immediately.
>> Negotiate termination packages: Employers welcome the chance to deal directly with a just dismissed employee. While employees are seldom deprived of the opportunity to meet with a lawyer — and often encouraged to do so — not all heed this advice. My initial demand letters on behalf of dismissed employees usually seek five or six concessions. I customarily find three or four of those items were unknown to the employee, prior to my involvement.
>> Don’t rush to judgment: When a B.C. court recently found it was cause for dismissal for an employee to turn to the courts while he was still employed, gung-ho employees have had to think twice before calling on their lawyers to communicate with their employer. When they do, the counsel I sometimes provide is to consider a mediation or resolution before proceeding to sue. Demonstrating a sincere intention to resolve the dispute will pay dividends in a future legal action.
>> Misusing e-mail and Internet: My inbox is full of e-mails from employees concerned if they can lose their jobs for online misdemeanours. The answer is a resounding yes! Employees who believe that their workplace computers, blackberries or PDAs are safe from their employer are mistaken. Employers own the equipment and systems and can review online habits. Review any computer use policies in place and use discretion when logging in.
Daniel A. Lublin is an employment lawyer practising exclusively in the law of wrongful dismissal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website,