Overview of the steps
If you are fired, there are steps you can take.
- Step 1. Ask your employer why you've been fired. This can help you decide what to do next.
- Step 2. Apply for benefits. Applying for employment insurance benefits can help you to pay your monthly bills while you’re unemployed.
- Step 3. Start looking for work. You have a duty to seek new and comparable work.
- Step 4. Gather relevant documents. It’s a good idea to create a paper trail.
- Step 5. Consider your legal options. Depending on the situation, you may have as many as three options.
We explain these steps in detail below.
Step 1. Ask your employer why you’ve been fired
Legally speaking, your employer doesn’t need to give a reason for firing you — unless they are firing you for just cause. But you should ask anyway.
They may decide not to tell you. Or they may give you a reason that isn’t the full story. If they do give you a reason, however, this can help you decide what to do next.
If you disagree with the reason your employer gives for firing you, consider getting legal advice. There are options for free or low-cost legal help.
Step 2. Apply for benefits
Losing a job can lead to financial stress in a hurry. It’s a good idea to apply for employment insurance (EI) benefits. These are temporary payments made to people who lose their job through no fault of their own.
EI benefits will help you to pay your monthly bills while you’re unemployed. You’ll also feel less pressure to accept a lowball offer from your employer.
There are time limits involved, so you should apply right away. We have step-by-step guidance on how to apply for EI.
(If you get severance pay from your employer, you might have to pay back some of the EI you get.)
Step 3. Start looking for work
Start looking for another job right away. You have a duty to seek new and comparable work, even during the notice period.
Keep detailed records of your job search, including copies of your application letters and emails, as well as any replies you get. Showing you took steps to reduce your losses is important if you decide to make a complaint or start legal action.
Step 4. Gather relevant documents
Collecting any documents related to your firing can help clarify your thinking. They also can serve as evidence, should you end up in a hearing or trial. And the material will be useful to a lawyer, should you decide to see one.
Types of information you should try to collect include:
- your employment contract
- paperwork your employer gave you when you were fired, including your record of employment
- any letters, memos or emails that might help show why you were fired
- documents or other things that show what you did to assert your rights as a worker
- contact information of co-workers who may have seen or heard something that could help show why you were fired
If you’re dealing with serious work-related stress, consider getting medical treatment. Medical records are a very strong form of evidence.
Step 5. Consider your legal options
If you think your employer breached your legal rights by firing you, it’s a good idea to get legal advice. A lawyer with employment law experience will be able to advise on your options to take action. Depending on the situation, you may have as many as three options.
Making an employment standards complaint
This is an option available to workers covered by the Employment Standards Act (see who’s covered). If you think your employer has breached this law, you can make a complaint to the Employment Standards Branch. This is the government office that administers the Act.
For the steps to take, see our guidance on making an employment standards complaint.
There are time limits for making a complaint: you have up to six months after your last day of work.
Filing a human rights claim
If your employer fired you for a reason that violates your human rights, you can file a claim with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. You may be able to recover any lost wages, or compensation for injury to your dignity or self-respect. You have up to 12 months after the human rights violation to bring a claim at the tribunal.
A human rights claim can be appropriate for lower-income workers who were hired for a short time. If you were in a job for a long time, or your employer behaved very badly, you might get more compensation by starting a legal action.
Starting legal action against your employer
If your employer clearly breached your rights by firing you, you may have to take more serious action. You may want to consider suing them for wrongful dismissal.
If your claim is for more than $5,000 and less than $35,000, you can sue in Small Claims Court. It’s faster and less complicated than suing in the BC Supreme Court. If your claim is for $5,000 or less, you can file online with the Civil Resolution Tribunal. This is an online tribunal that encourages a collaborative approach to resolving disputes.
If you do decide to sue, there are time limitations on filing lawsuits. Generally, the time limit is two years from when you were fired. There are steps you can take to extend the time limit and preserve your rights. A lawyer can explain your options, and help you decide on the best course of action.
It’s important to get legal advice in considering these options. Once starting on one of these paths, you may be legally prevented from using another process. It is also important to understand which option is best suited for your particular problem. If you don’t have a lawyer, there are options for free or low-cost legal help.