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Postmedia-Torstar deal means wrongful dismissal suits likely to follow

This week, Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Inc. announced their deal to sell newspapers to one another to reduce competition and monopolize advertising revenue. As a result of this deal, Postmedia announced it will cutting 244 jobs and is shutting down 24 newspapers, including the following from eastern Ontario:

· Metro Ottawa.

· Belleville News.

· Central Hastings News.

· Frontenac Gazette.

· Kanata Kourier-Standard.

· Kingston Heritage.

· Nepean/Barrhaven News.

· Orléans News.

· Ottawa East News.

· Ottawa South News.

· Ottawa West News.

· Quinte West News.

· Stittsville News.

· St. Lawrence News.

· West Carleton Review.

Many of these local newspapers have been operating for decades, with dedicated, long-term employees. Now, these employees will find themselves without a job after years of service. Meanwhile, Torstar announced it will close three of the seven daily newspapers and will be cutting 46 jobs.

Many people have misconceptions when it comes to layoffs, and generally equate a "layoff" and "termination" with the same meaning. In law, they are very distinct concepts.

Layoff

A temporary layoff is when an employer temporarily cuts back or ceases an employee's employment with the understanding that the employee will be recalled within a certain period of time. In Ontario, a temporary layoff can last up to 13 weeks in a consecutive 20-week period. If an employee is laid off for longer than this period, they are deemed to have been terminated.

Termination

If an employee is laid off with no expectation of being recalled, or is flat out dismissed from their job, they may be entitled to payment pursuant to the common law. The amount of money a dismissed employee is entitled to depends on their age, years of service, character of employment (what kind of job and duties they held), and availability of alternate work.

If you have been laid off or terminated, consult an experienced employment lawyer to determine what your rights are. You can be entitled to significant payment from your previous employer.

The practice from employers that we have noticed over years of experience is that they will make a low ball offer to their staff upon termination. The separation package (often times referred to as a severance package) is almost always significantly below the level of compensation (money) the terminated staff is entitled to. The employer is banking on the employee not having any choice but to accept the low ball offer now that they are without a job (income). The employer will even insist in receiving a signed "Release" before making the low ball payment. They do this to prevent the employee from suing the employer at a later date. In reality, the employee is entitled to a lump sum payment upon termination which is based on the common law. In almost every case, that amount of compensation is greatly superior than the amount offered by the employer, at first.

It is very important to consult with an experienced employment lawyer for proper advice. With the experience that we have, we know exactly how to get the employer to provide the appropriate level of compensation and we will go to court if need be.

To reach the authors of this blog, Jean-François Lalonde and Marie Kwan, call 613.232.5773.

Jean-Francois Lalonde is an Ottawa, Ontario employment lawyer and wrongful dismissal lawyer practicing with Vice & Hunter LLP. He has extensive experience practicing in the areas of employment law and is a part-time professor at La Cité Collégiale teaching Employment Law for Paralegals.

Marie Kwan is an articling student with Vice & Hunter LLP. She has experience assisting in employment law matters and competed in a labour law moot while in law school.

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