Chowdhury: Tech industry shutdowns create a market for employers

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The Canadian labor shortage is a relic of the pandemic past.

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In recent weeks, throngs of major corporations and tech startups have trimmed their workforce in the wake of a looming recession.

Amazon recently announced that it has reduced its workforce by 100,000 this year.

On July 26, e-commerce giant Shopify shed 10% of its workforce, adding about 1,000 workers to the unemployment streak.

Clearco announced the layoff of 25% of its workforce (125 employees); Wealthsimple left 159 employees in June; Carvana Co., an online car dealership, laid off 2,500 employees in May; Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced the layoff of 18% of its employees, which amounts to nearly 1,000 employees.

This list is just a sampling of the terminations we’ve been seeing across the industry this year.

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Of particular note are the softer terms businesses and media use to describe these ends. The terms downsizing, downsizing, and laying off all mean the same thing. These employees are permanently terminated and in some cases may be entitled to significant unfair dismissal compensation, especially if they work in Canada.

While employers announce terminations in the media, many use their press releases to share details of termination packages being offered to employees, in some cases going so far as to describe them as “generous.” Companies may demand this for public relations and other reasons but that does not make it so. Terminated employees must conduct their own due diligence upon termination to determine their rights and entitlements upon termination.

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Group terminations can be mind-bending. Employees may feel more pressure to compromise and not challenge offers of termination, to give up and move forward for the greater good of the company; To connect with former colleagues and seek greener pastures. Don’t fall into the trap.

Employees should assess their jobs and future, especially given the bleak outlook for re-employment in some industries. There are thousands of employees looking for work now. The employer will choose. The competition will be fierce. In addition, terminations will continue.

If you have been laid off from the tech industry, here are some of the pay and benefits items you may be entitled to:

a wage The termination letter may declare it generous but it is wise to think about how long it might take you to find a similar job and compare it to the offer of salary, which is often referred to as the notice period.

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bonus – If you have worked to earn a bonus but it is terminated before payday, you may still be entitled to a pro-rata portion of the bonus you worked for. In addition, you may be entitled to lost bonus earnings during the notification period.

stock options If you were granted options when you were hired or while you were employed, you may be entitled to those options, even upon termination. If you think these options could come in handy soon, exercising your options could be big gains.

Long/Short Term Incentives and RSU Plans, valid and not valid If you receive variable compensation through LTIPs or STIPs, you may be entitled to these plans even after termination. You may also be entitled to the STIP/LTIP that you would have earned during the notice period.

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Health benefits Employees can often continue to enjoy medical and dental benefits even after termination of employment.

Even if your employer doesn’t offer you these perks or payments on termination, you can still get them. Before you sign a severance package, make sure you seek every improvement you can to weather the stagnation storm.

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To this week’s questions:

Q: During the pandemic I was able to work from home. I suffered from alcoholism. Accordingly, I admit that I missed some crucial moments at work, including meetings and sometimes missed deadlines. I also missed a very important meeting with my supervisor. I’m fortunately on the road to recovery, but I know I’m not in a positive place at work. I know for sure that my boss is upset with my performance. I get counseling, see my doctor, and worry about losing my job. Any advice would be appreciated?

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a. Addictions are disabilities recognized under human rights law. If you are seeking medical treatment as a result of alcoholism or addiction, you will likely be entitled to accommodation in your workplace as a result of a disability. You may consider accessing short-term disability benefits and/or filing a medical note with your Human Resources department regarding any restrictions or amenities you may need while receiving treatment for a disability. If you do not provide any medical information to your employer, you could jeopardize your role. Employees are required to participate in the residency process which begins with working with your medical team to provide your employer with at least some general information about the medical residency you may need while seeking treatment.

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Q: I work on the HR team and we had to restructure a lot of our divisions, which led to the termination of the group in our company. Without going into details, some employees upon termination raised complaints that they had not previously submitted to the HR department while on the job. Is HR required to investigate employee complaints after termination of employment?

A: It is always good practice to investigate complaints, especially if they pertain to existing employees. If a complaint has not been filed with the Human Resources department, it is important to determine the cause. If there is an internal barrier in which employees feel as though they cannot file complaints with the HR department, this must be addressed. An investigation may also be useful if litigation does arise. It is important to obtain legal advice regarding any investigation that may be initiated, especially if the allegations are sensitive in nature.

Have a problem in the workplace? Maybe I can help!

Email me at and your question may be featured in a future column.

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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