What Does an Employment Lawyer Do?

What Does an Employment Lawyer Do?

Most people know that employees have rights against employers, and that if things turn sour, they may need the assistance of an employment lawyer. But when, why, and how does an employment lawyer help? This article covers the ways an employment lawyer can assist you, and the types of matters where – generally speaking - employment lawyers can (or cannot) assist you with your workplace dispute.

What an Employment Lawyer Can do for You:

Employment lawyers can serve two main functions: Advice and representation.

Employment Lawyer as advisor

An employment lawyer can advise you when you wish to deal directly with your employer, rather than through an intermediary. If you are still employed, you (and not your lawyer) should usually remain the point of communication, as involving a lawyer in an active employment relationship can lead to a breakdown in communication.

Advice can be as simple as having some of your questions answered, but it can also involve much more extensive coaching and “ghost-writing” from behind the scenes.

For instance, you might retain an employment lawyer to do the following advisory functions:

  • Review and advise on an employment contract, workplace policies, promotions, etc

  • Review and advise on a severance offer

  • Coach you through a workplace dispute

You may not know what questions to ask, or how a lawyer can help you, which is normal. For this reason, our firm offers free consultations to help you understand how we might be able to help.

Employment lawyer as representative

A workplace dispute turns into a legal dispute when you retain an employment lawyer to act as your representative. When you retain an employment lawyer as your representative, it is best to let all further employment-related communication go through your lawyer. We will send a letter to your employer instructing them to direct all further correspondence and inquiries to our attention.

Typically, an employment lawyer should not step in to act as your representative unless and until there has been a total breakdown in the employment relationship of some kind. For instance, an employment lawyer may:

  • Represent you when your employment has been terminated

  • Represent you when your employment relationship has become unsalvageable

  • Represent you to pursue your entitlements under a contract

  • Represent you to pursue your employment standards entitlements

  • Represent you where your rights as an employee have been violated

What an Employment Lawyer Cannot do for You

It may be more revealing to know the circumstances in which an employment lawyer typically cannot assist you, and the reasons why.

An employment lawyer (usually) cannot:

Represent you in day-to-day employment matters

Unlike unionized employees, non-union employees do not have a free-standing right to make grievances over day-to-day issues that might arise during employment. An employment lawyer can advise you on your rights in these circumstances and how best to position yourself for success, but in the vast majority of cases, you must deal with such matters yourself.

Force your employer to treat you better

Employment lawyers typically step in when your employment relationship has or is coming to an end. Hiring an employment lawyer can help position you best to pursue your rights when push comes to shove, but an employment lawyer usually cannot help you mend your working relationships.

Force your employer to terminate you

In most cases, you are not entitled to termination pay or severance unless and until a termination has occurred. This means that if you have not been terminated, you (and your lawyer) have little to no leverage to make that request.

Get you your job back

With some notable exceptions, once your employment has been terminated, your employment lawyer will not be able to get you your job back. Rather, your employment lawyer will focus on getting you the best possible settlement in the circumstances.

Guarantee a quick settlement

The legal system can be powerful, and remedies for employer wrongdoing can be extensive. However, the legal process is slow by nature, and can be slower if your employer is intent on delaying the proceedings.


If you have been terminated, laid-off, or severed from your employment contract in Canada, our experienced team of employment law lawyers in Toronto can help. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless we win your case. Find out if you have an Employment Case.

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