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Background

I've worked with my current employer (Ontario division of a large tech company) for about 5 years now. For the past 5 years, I've been in a "senior engineer" position, but for the past 24 months, I've taken over for the "chief engineer" for the division, and routinely take over for my manager (he was promoted, and his old position was never officially replaced, so I'm basically working 2-3 paygrades above my own, but my employer has never corrected this). I do great on my KPIs/performance-reviews, and my employer keeps promising a promotion and pay raise every 6 months that never comes. I've communicated my dissatisfaction bluntly on this topic several times, and no changes have occurred, so I successfully interviewed at another tech firm (not a direct competitor), and managed to negotiate a better position, title, 45% pay increase: yay. The catch: I requested a 2 month delay (rather than the 3 weeks notice my contract stipulates) so I can have some downtime to recover from burnout. The job offer is signed and countersigned, and I've already cashed the signing/onboarding bonus cheque I negotiated.

Problem

Something was very weird about how my managers acted this past Monday, as I'm suddenly being called into meetings on the "importance of the project I lead", and I've received two requests to sign some paperwork (which requires me to come sign in-person on-site, and I can't have a copy myself) that would make me agree to have "fiduciary duties" and a 3-month severance/notice period in place of my 3 week period. I flatly (and politely) declined, as "I'm not an executive, and I'm sure not paid like one, so this fiduciary duty request seems wildly inappropriate, and I won't be signing a thing." Something smells fishy.

My employer has requested that I focus on training more people to be "experts in my technical domain", but is getting angry when I insist the individuals will need to learn a lot of new topics first (i.e. master Linux kernel development, learn Linux security and firewalls, etc.) before I can teach them the advanced topics, and my employer is all but accusing me of being "needlessly difficult".

Question

Should I just give 2 months notice to my employer? I only legally owe them 3 weeks, and they technically "get their way" with a greater notice period for which they're pressing me. Ideally, they just send me packing and pay me severance for 8 months, but I'm not sure if they can reduce the pay to just 3 weeks if I've already handed in my notice. This is in Canada, as noted at the top.

How should I proceed? Provide 2 months of notice, or just wait a few weeks and hand in my 3 weeks notice when I'm 3 weeks from starting my new job?

Edit: I can live without the excess downtime more easily than going 5 weeks without income. My primary interest is making as much money over the next 8 weeks as possible, be it from either regular pay from my current employer, and it'd be awesome if they felt compelled to fire me without cause and pay out my severance (8 months of pay), but I don't want to miss some loophole and get fired and only be paid 3 weeks of severance.

Thank you.

Edit: the solution has concluded a lot sooner than anticipated. Thank you for the advice.

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    Are you burnt out or not? Will not having time off affect your performance at your new employer? The last thing you would want is to give a poor first impression due to being burned out. – sf02 Sep 4 '20 at 18:17
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    Sounds to me that you are more concerned with the possible legal loopholes in this situation. Thus, I suggest you get a lawyer to assist you and not random but kind people on the internet. – DarkCygnus Sep 4 '20 at 18:18
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    'I've received two requests to sign some paperwork (which requires me to come sign in-person on-site, and I can't have a copy myself) that would make me agree to have "fiduciary duties"' - That reads to me as 'We, your employers, are considering the option of suing you, our employee, for failing to work yourself even further into the ground on our behalf. We'd like you to isolate yourself from access to formal or informal legal advice for a few hours while you make that possible for us, please.' There may be much more at stake here than a few weeks' pay versus a few weeks' downtime. – Daniel Hatton Sep 4 '20 at 21:00
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    @Detente If they won't let you run it by a lawyer it's probably got something evil in it. – Loren Pechtel Sep 5 '20 at 3:11
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    OP, I'm confused about the severance pay. Originally you wanted to work only three weeks and take five off, but now you're more concerned with being paid. Were you expecting to get paid for those five weeks originally somehow? If not, why didn't you just start at the new job sooner? Why do you even think they'll fire you without cause when you've already given notice and they'd have to pay you that much? – Kat Sep 5 '20 at 13:21
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I'm legally obligated to provide 3 weeks of severance.

Then it seems to me that the answer is clear: give your 3 week notice, serve it, get paid and leave, take good use of that time to recover from burnout and then start your new job with a fresh mindset and energy.

To my point of view, framing this situation so they fire you in order to get more money from your severance doesn't seem professional or even ethical thing to do. I am not a lawyer, but this even sounds that it could get you in trouble, or at least don't make your current company happy. If any I suggest you contact a lawyer if you pretend to take this way.

However, seems clear from your post that your current company is not thinking of letting you go (as their mindset suggests they are already giving you new responsibilities). Besides, if you are burnout recovering from it is very important; you don't want to start a new job still burned out and under perform.

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  • Hm... the company promised a promotion that never came, but they wanted and got the higher pay grade work out of him. He's just countering maneuvering with maneuvering, which is ethically and professionally okay. Now of course this will raise a red flag with any future company that does similar shenanigans, but that's not the kind of company he wants to work for; he will have to think about making sure that his side of the story is handed around just like theirs, but that's PR, not morals. – toolforger Sep 5 '20 at 11:23
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    This is your answer, Also, do NOT expect anything from your current employer but maybe foul play, serve your notice as soon as you can and rest. From the movement around a company there will be several opportunities to trip you, but if notice served all they can do is let you go early with 3 weeks (notice period) of pay – Strader Sep 7 '20 at 2:43
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I'd say this solution is a hybrid of my interpretation of the advice from @DarkCyprus and a kind redditor.

So, today was rough, but more-or-less rewarding. I received yet another demand to sign the paperwork that would put more responsibility on me (and the vaguely-worded promise of the "opportunity/ability" to earn more money), and increase the notice that I have to provide significantly. I just told my "most senior" boss, "Miles" (not his real name):

"Miles, I'm not signing ****. This whole thing seems horribly wrong, and I'm not signing or agreeing-to anything until I have a copy to take home and run past my family attorney. This whole thing has left a sour taste in the mouth, and I think you're better off promoting another candidate with this "offer", as this has stressed me out, made me miserable, and I think I'll start hunting for a new job over the span of the next 12-18 months. I'm happy to train my replacement once the other engineers are up-to-speed, and I'm happy to start writing a training curricula for them during work hours. That being said, I'll continue to perform my job (and the senior roles I've assumed) to the best of my ability, and act as a faithful and dutiful agent of my employer during that time according to company and PEO/APEG guidelines, and continue to put in overtime as needed to meet milestones and deliveries. If at any point I am interviewing with a competitor or a company in our field, I'll inform you in case changes in my duties are required."

Miles was red in the face, and kept pressing me to resign, stating "it was the only decent/honorable/etc. solution if I'm so miserable here". I declined, repeating my "dutiful agent" bit, and that I'd consider that when I have an offer counter-signed and in-hand. In the mean-time, he gets the equivalent of a year of notice for all intents and purposes, and I can help him train my replacement. I continue to get hammered with questions on if I've accepted a new job offer, which I continue to reply with "not your business".

3 hours later I'm told that my employment will be terminated, and there's paperwork for me to sign to be eligible for my severance package. I decline the exit interview (even though it will burn bridges and cost a reference from my boss, which I don't care about, as I have friends who've already agreed to provide me with a reference at this company), which causes actual yelling/shouting. I tell them flatly that they likely need me distracted while they deactivate my devices and backup files, so I'll go to a spare office for the paperwork as a courtesy to them.

I noticed the severance agreement isn't the usual document handed out to employees (I've been involved in exit interviews at this company before), and I demand the "standard" package, or I'll be filing a wrongful dismissal suit and a personal suit against my boss as a person for harassment. I'm left sitting in an overheating office alone for 30 minutes when our legal officer comes in, very kind and polite, gives me a standard release form, and confirmation of 7.5 months of severance via direct deposit (i.e. minus vacation time taken this year).

This was utter hell, and I don't recommend it unless you have the finances to live several months without work in a bear/garbage economy. Even if you don't go for P.Eng./RPE certs, it doesn't hurt to learn the ethics and legal training associated with it. On the plus side, I have a 1 month signing bonus and ~8 months of severance pay to get me through the next 2 months. If anything like this happens in the future, I'm definitely just waiting until it's a good time to give my 2/3 weeks notice.

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    "7.5 weeks of severance" -- do you mean months? – nanoman Sep 5 '20 at 5:35
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    I'm sure this is an emotional volatile, tough, distracting time for the OP. But the story is confusing and hard to make sense of. E.g.: the period of notice has been variously described as 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 8 weeks, 3 months, 8 months, and a year. Really hard to follow the machinations/motivations on both sides here. – Daniel R. Collins Sep 5 '20 at 14:32
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    It's also super confusing when the first paragraph says "I'll start hunting for a new job over the span of the next 12-18 months" but the last paragraph says "I have a 1 month signing bonus and ~8 months of severance pay to get me through the next 2 months". Does the OP have another job lined up or not? It can't be both... – Nelson Sep 5 '20 at 17:23
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    @Nelson, I thought that part a little confusing. I think he was describing what he said with a poker face to his boss (i.e. feigning to his boss that he was not already set up with another job to go to), not his actual circumstances (which is that he already has another job lined up). He did put the whole block of text in quotes, but the block was so long that it was hard to see them at each end. – Steve Sep 5 '20 at 20:09
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    "If at any point I am interviewing with a competitor or a company in our field, I'll inform you in case changes in my duties are required." Some of what you said was misleading, but this was a straight-up lie, unless you meant "I'll inform you in the case changes in my duties are required". – Acccumulation Sep 5 '20 at 21:40
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For starters, you are always better being dismissed/let go/fired by your employer in terms of the amount of compensation you will be paid in Ontario.

As an employee in Ontario, you are not required to give any notice to your employer, unless you have it as part of your contract. You stated your contract requires 3 weeks notice.

When an employer in Ontario lets you go there are a couple of things to be aware of:

  • The amount of notice they need to give you
  • Payment in Lieu of Notice (Termination Pay)
  • Severance

The notice will depend on the amount of continuous time you have work for your employer without more than a 13 week gap. If their is a greater than a 13 week gap in employment only the most recent segment will count.

The amount of notice you should receive from your employer is given in the following table:

Amount of notice required if an employee has been continuously
employed for at least three months
=================================================
Period of employment           |  Notice required
=================================================
Less than 1 year               |  1 week
1 year but less than 3 years   |  2 weeks
3 years but less than 4 years  |  3 weeks
4 years but less than 5 years  |  4 weeks
5 years but less than 6 years  |  5 weeks
6 years but less than 7 years  |  6 weeks
7 years but less than 8 years  |  7 weeks
8 years or more                |  8 weeks

You stated you were employed with them for about 5 years. So you are owed either 4 or 5 weeks depending which side of the 5 year mark you fall.

Now based on follow up comments you were let go on the spot. So this is where Payment in Lieu of notice kicks in. They are required to pay you your regular wage for regular hours for those 4 or 5 weeks.

Not that is applies to your case, but the maximum payout caps at 26 weeks.

The next thing is severance.

Severance kicks in after the 5 year mark, and your company also has to have a payroll in Ontario of at least $2.5 million. Their is another clause for 50 or more people due to closure, but that does not apply here. Assuming you are part of a big enough company, and you probably are given that they have an in house legal department and you are over the 5 year mark then you qualify for severance in addition to the other payments you are receiving such as Payment In Lieu of Notice.

If you are under 5 years you get $0 severance.

If you are over 5 years you get 1 week of pay for every year you have worked plus a week of pay times the number of complete month divided by 12 for the final incomplete year of employment.

HAD YOU QUIT, you would not be entitled to any Severance Pay and I believe you would forfeit any payment in lieu of notice beyond your 3 weeks you would have given.

Of course there are always exceptions as to when you qualify. For more information you can see the Ontario Ministry of Labour Website:

Payment In Lieu of Notice

Severance Pay

Also of note, the company is required to continue any and all benefits until the end of the notice period they would have had to have given.

Not that is applies to your case, but the maximum payout caps at 26 weeks.

I would not recommend ever giving more notice than you are required to as you may find yourself without work sooner rather than later. Also of note if you initiate the departure you are cutting yourself off from severance, and portions of your entitle notice. Always best in my opinion when facing dismissal is to let the company initiate things.

In the ideal situation you give your notice at the time required by your contract (ie latest possible). Be prepare that you are going to escorted out of the building at any time from that point to your stated last day of work. Part on amicable terms when possible.

In your case that 5 year +/- period you really want to be on the + side of 5. Not that you have control of that.

And just in case it is not clear, Payment In Lieu of Notice and Severance Pay, are two separate payments.

You get let go just before 5 years, you get roughly 5 weeks pay. You get let go the day after your 5 year anniversary, you get roughly 10 weeks pay (5 for severance and for for Payment In Lieu of Notice).

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I can't think why thay would ever give you 8 months pay if you have already given 2 months notice. If they decide that you are becoming a niusance, they could send you on "gardening leave" for whatever remains of the two months - effectively keeping you on the payroll but telling you that you that don't have to do any work for them.

Alternatively, they could closely watch everything you do, looking for any excuse to fire you early. That woudn't help your employment history, and you wouldn't be paid.

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  • The former of the two options is fine by me, but the latter, not so much. I'm still working hard, honoring my contracts, etc.; so it's extremely unlikely they have any leverage by which they can fire me with cause. – Detente Sep 4 '20 at 19:25
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I'm taking Glorfindel's advice and requesting the accounts be merged. To provide a rough summary:

  • My new job starts in 8 weeks from now.
    • I was burned out, and asked my new employer to give me 8 weeks before I start.
    • My original plan was to wait 4 weeks and continue working at my current employer, and then provide 3 weeks of notice to my current employer, and just dial back overtime to nothing (i.e. 7.5 hour days instead of 10.5 hour days), and finally have a 1 week gap of no work at all before starting with my new employer (to decompress). This accounts to 4 + 3 + 1 ==> 8 weeks between now, and when I start my new job.
  • My "current" (well, now ex, but I'll use "current" to avoid ambiguity) employer required 3 weeks (as per my contact) of notice if I were to quit, and was illegally pressing me into unilateral/illegal contract changes so I'd have to give 3 months (i.e. 12 weeks) of notice if I voluntarily left.
  • My severance agreement is above-and-beyond the standard one guaranteed by the province of Ontario (so, while the points made by "Forward Ed" are likely correct, they don't necessarily apply in this case), and in the case my current employer fires me without cause, my employer must pay me the equivalent of 3 months of salary, plus an additional month for each year I was employed (3 months + 5 months ==> 8 months of severance), minus any "vacation overage".
    • My current employer is forcing us to take 4 days of vacation per month so they don't have to rack up extra costs in the "vacation pot", but won't let us take a solid week off, which really has a lot of us pissed off. Apparently vacation pay has to be reserved in an account in advance in case of the company going under, so there's a real-world cost for them if people don't use vacation days while working from home during the pandemic. We also could rarely take consecutive days off or Mondays/Fridays, so time off was a waste.
  • I was indeed burned out from my current job, being underpaid, office politics, garbage vacation policies that wouldn't allow for a solid week off, but made us use random Tuesdays and Wednesdays so the company could balance the budget.
  • If I had provided official notice, I would likely have only received 3 weeks of pay (contacted my family attorney over my lunch break), and in the best case, if I provided 2 months of notice and my employer decided to instead fire me or say "we only need you for 3 weeks", I'd likely be paid 2 months if the employer wanted to be slightly aggressive (and since they have my formal written leave papers). If my employer wanted to be more aggressive and dare me to sue them, they'd have just given me 3 weeks of pay and said "see you in court".
  • My "tactic" of given verbal-only, vague indications I was planning on leaving was extremely risky, but eventually resulted in my employer just firing me without case, and invoking the clause that would pay me full severance (i.e. 8 months of pay). This, combined with the 1 month-of-pay (at 145% of my old rate) signing bonus with my new employer, left me with about 9.45 months of pay to tide me over for the next 2 months. My attorney noted this was a dangerous/risky move, and I should make sure future employers don't learn of it.
    • I was, however told I was clever for noticing a non-standard release form, and threatening to sue my supervisor as a person rather than as an agent of his employer, for non-professional/targeted conduct (i.e. bullying), and he probably looked incompetent in front of his own bosses if he had to ask the company attorney to take over a simple firing (might be risking his own job for doing something as stupid as amending a legal form for termination without the consent of the legal team, as it usually takes months for such a form/policy to be changed in a large company).
    • I was also clever for:
      • Not signing a contract without my lawyer viewing it and me being given a carbon copy.
      • Declining the exit interview.
      • Not admitting to having an offer (or an accepted offer) from another employer.
  • Points where I got lucky and could have screwed myself over:
    • My whole "faithful agent" speech was well-handled, and it never hurts to cite something like a professional engineering body, as an employer challenging professional practise/ethics/etc. could generate millions of dollars in bad PR and lawsuits. However, since I mentioned "I'd let them know if I was interviewing" and had already interviewed, I was being deliberately misleading, which could have really bitten me if we went to court.

Takeaway: most of what I did was "clever", except this piece of my speech:

If at any point I am interviewing with a competitor or a company in our field, I'll inform you in case changes in my duties are required."

If anyone reads this in the future and wants to try and "force your employers hand" to give you severance (i.e. trying to get fired without cause, or "light a fire under their ass"), it's a very dangerous game, and I succeeded more due to stupidity and corruption on the part of my now-ex-employer, rather than cleverness on my own part.

Why I'm not worried about my ex-employer reading this: at least one senior manager, by my attorney's objective summary, committed multiple illegal acts (i.e. one-party copy of the contract, constructive dismissal, unilateral coerced contract changes, amending a company legal document without executive/legal-team approval, pressing/manipulating someone to quit rather than just firing them, pressuring someone to come into the office to sign something they could handle via e-signing and potentially violating company CV-19 prevention policies for a non-critical/illegal reason, which would run afoul of my company's government-facing applications to be listed/classified as an essential service etc.), so coming after me for a few months of salary could see him facing fines at the least, and possibly worse, so hopefully, this is experience is remotely useful as an example (mostly of what not to due) for Canadian engineers being bullied by unethical employers.

Edit: Jesus, every reference on this site to professional engineering involves corruption in Canadian companies.

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    Please ask the mods to merge your accounts – Draken Sep 7 '20 at 6:58
  • How have they fired you without cause? It sounds like as bad as your company was, you were acting completely unethically too and refusing to give formal notice even though you had orally made it clear you were leaving, that would be cause – Nick Cardoso Sep 7 '20 at 13:07
  • @NickCardoso Mainly due to my "threat" being (deliberately) vague (i.e. "I think I'll start looking for a new job in a year"). They could have just dismissed it as grumbling/griping, but I suspected they may have to take action on it, and it turns out they did. Since I didn't give them anything immediate, official, or direct/clearly-defined, there was no reasonable grounds to terminate me, and the severance clause was invoked. Since my boss was pressing me to resign, it was that much more obvious that severance was likely if they're trying that hard to get me to resign voluntarily. – Detente Sep 7 '20 at 14:17
  • "...professional engineering ...corruption in Canadian companies." However it is not clear whether this indicates the inferior professional ethics of Canadian companies, or the superior ethics of Canadian professional engineers. – A. I. Breveleri Sep 7 '20 at 15:34
  • @A.I.Breveleri I would say both. – Detente Sep 7 '20 at 18:49
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Don't sign anything and just leave after your initial notice period.

This whole situation sounds dangerous and toxic, just get out and forget about the whole thing. You're burned out and underpaid, and you have a new job ready to go. Just try to wrap things up and move on with your life. Don't try any complex maneuvers that could get you further enmeshed in the mess that was your previous job.

What if you accidentally sign something that says you have to stay longer? Your new job may get angry if you can't show up when you said you would. Basically translating the toxicity into your new job.

Yes, there is a microscopic chance you could sign something and maneuver to get more money, but a situation this toxic seems too dangerous to roll the dice on for some petty revenge pay. Revenge is, perhaps, the most foolish of all human motives.

If money is your only concern, it still seems too dangerous to try to eek out a little more money. Yeah, you can be sharp enough to hopefully not sign something crazy, but that carries a certain risk unless you have legal training. Why not just relax for a few weeks if you can truly afford it. That way you will be really strong out of the gate at your new job.

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  • it was resolved. OP posted an update.. – Rohit Sep 5 '20 at 17:20

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