Can my employer make me sign a release upon termination?
When employees are terminated without notice they are typically provided with a termination letter outlining what the employer is offering in terms of a monetary payout. It can be incredibly stressful to experience a termination and have to make decisions regarding accepting or denying an offer. To further add stress, employers often state that the offer is only available for acceptance until a certain date and require you to sign a release on short notice. Is your employer allowed to establish these terms and conditions?
One of the most common things we encounter in termination offers is a requirement to accept an employer’s offer within a certain time limit. These time limits often cause a lot of stress for recently terminated employees. You may think that your employer has only given you one week to decide if the offer is good and you should accept it. However, as we emphasize to all our clients, your employer has legal obligations to provide you with certain minimum entitlements and the employer cannot put terms and conditions to them.
At law, per Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, your employer owes you certain minimum entitlements. Your employer cannot put a time limit on these, nor can your employer require you to sign anything prior to providing them to you. Further, your employer is never permitted to make the release of the minimum amounts contingent on your signing any form of release. What you are owed according to your entitlements per the ESA are yours and can never be subject to employer-imposed terms and conditions within the termination letter.
However, if your employer has provided you with more than your minimum ESA entitlements, then the employer is able to propose terms and conditions, so long as refusal to accept them still provides you with your ESA entitlements.
The ESA establishes the minimum entitlements an employee is entitled to at law based on certain factors such as length of employment and size of the employer. The ESA also stipulates which benefits must be maintained or compensated for a period at termination. In order to understand whether or not your employer can impose terms and conditions such as a deadline for signing or a requirement of a release, it is important to contact an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer will be able to explain whether or not the termination offer you have is good and reasonable to accept.
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