I just served my 2 weeks notice to my employer, resigning from my role as a lead web designer in a small company in Eastern Canada. Most of my colleagues understand, as they themselves are planning their own exit strategies (abusive boss). I am a regular, non-contract, full-time salaried employee.

The CEO (my boss) has just informed me that there will be additional paperwork that I "need to sign" before my final pay check will be paid out. The check would be for my final 2 weeks of work, along with about a year of vacation pay (roughly equivalent to another 2 weeks of work, amounting to 4 weeks of pay in total), and I need it badly (mother with husband on worker's comp with a workplace injury, living paycheck to paycheck with 2 kids). I have a new job lined up, but I didn't anticipate my current employer withholding what is already legally required to be paid to me.

I have no plans to sign any further NDAs, forms, etc. I noted that if those were so important, they should have been provided when I was hired, not now.

Assuming the CEO will follow-through (he's made sure to communicate all of this verbally, nothing in writing), what pre-emptive steps can I take? Are there any officers or inspectors I could contact from the ministry of labor who could send a gentle reminder that what he's planning is illegal, and to just pay me out? Or do I have to come up with money I don't have to get a lawyer? I can't be paying out legal fees to an attorney and missing work at my new job, but need that pay.

  • 13
    Looks like Canada covers employment law at the provincial level. If you want answers relating to / referencing the actual laws that apply (at the general level, we don't do legal advice) you'll have to specify which province you're in.
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 21, 2017 at 14:37
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    Rereading your question, are you sure that it's an NDA your boss wants you to sign? If this is just about legal paperwork to confirm your resignation and allow him to pay out prorated vacation pay this may be a non-issue.
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 21, 2017 at 15:22
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    Before deciding whether this paperwork is objectionable to you, perhaps you should read it. Mar 21, 2017 at 16:04
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    I've don't know Canadian law, but in the UK it is quite normal for someone who is working under the Official Secrets Act (granted, that's a bit more than "just an NDA") and resigns their job, to be required to sign for a the receipt of a document reminding them that some of the limitations of the Act continue after they have left the company. Whatever, refusing to sign something without even reading it is a fairly bone-headed attitude to take.
    – alephzero
    Mar 21, 2017 at 17:33
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    We have no way to answer this without studying the words he wants you to sign to. It could be completely innocuous, or it could be insane. We just don't know. Period. This is one of those times that asking random people on the internet is not useful. The paperwork could just be a receipt for all we know. All those below who claim to have an answer are wrong. Mar 21, 2017 at 23:21

5 Answers 5


Note: this answer is based on the original version of the question and assumes that the paperwork refers to NDAs or similar paperwork that someone might reasonably object to signing. If it's simple administrative paperwork then that's part of the leaving process and the below doesn't apply.

Talk to your manager. You should say a variation of the following:

I wanted to get back to you on the NDAs you wanted me to sign in exchange for receiving my final salary. Actually Ontario law requires that I receive all my outstanding wages including vacation pay no later than my regular pay day or seven days after I leave.*

But rest assured that I have no intention of disclosing confidential/corporate information or abusing the trust you've placed in me in my time here. I haven't given you any reason to think that I would do something so unprofessional in the [X years] that I've worked here and I don't plan on changing that after I've moved on to my new employer. But I hope you understand that I'm not comfortable signing any additional forms or NDAs like this.

* Replace this with whatever applies to your location, I assume that all provinces protect your right to the pay you earned.

That should hopefully be the end of it. If you get a less-than-reasonable response you'll have to stick with variations of "I'm sorry, but I'm not able to do that." and "I understand, but you cannot legally withhold my pay over this so I expect to receive my final pay no later than the Xth"

As Dave mentioned, you do risk losing a reference over this if you hold firm and your manager is unreasonable. But his request is bizarre and it's reasonable to push back against it.

If they end up not paying you before the relevant deadline is passed, you'll have to file a claim with your province's Ministry of Labour. If your laws are anything like Ontario's there shouldn't be any need to contact a lawyer over this, though that it just a layman's opinion and not legal advice.

Some of the comments point out that this is something to handle via email instead. While you can, I'd suggest talking about this face to face if you're comfortable with that. An actual conversation allows you to respond to your manager's reaction, which can be important if you are open to signing the NDA to preserve the reference/relationship. I don't see any issue with using this script for written communication but referencing legal requirements and declining requests will always come across stronger when it's written down.

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    I would but this in email, and copy his boss and someone in HR too.
    – Neo
    Mar 21, 2017 at 15:21
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    +1 to suggestion of using email. I would drop the last sentence of the text, which I consider otherwise excellent. Mar 21, 2017 at 16:07
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    @MisterPositive OP says that her boss is also the CEO - so, no super-boss to talk to (any maybe not even HR depending on company size). But definitely agree with using email, document everything!
    – user812786
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:09
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    I'd also CC my personal email account Mar 21, 2017 at 20:38
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    You can have the best of both worlds: Have a conversation, and later send an email stating what you agreed upon (or disagreed)
    – Christian
    Mar 22, 2017 at 8:51

Some things are reasonable to expect you to sign. Some are not.

For example, they might ask you to sign to declare that you have not left any personal belongings behind, or that you have seen and read (as opposed to having agreed to) some notice that they want a paper trail proving that they have provided to you. So telling you that there is "additional paperwork" is entirely reasonable. Have you actually been told that you will be required to sign an NDA, or have you merely assumed this?

Being required to sign an NDA is of course not reasonable, but of course they are free to ask. It may just be an opening negotiating position. You could decline, saying that you "don't agree to amend our existing contract", and you may find that you get a counter-offer.

If it turns out that they absolutely will not pay you without you agreeing to additional terms, then this is of course illegal, and not really any different to them arbitrarily deciding not to pay you for no reason at all. I suggest that you ignore their "additional terms" condition and proceed to attempt to recover what they owe you as if they're just not paying you. You "don't agree to amend our existing contract", and would like "payment of your salary arrears according to your existing contract as agreed".

  • Another thing they may (reasonably) ask you to sign is an acknowledgement of the existence of an NDA that was originally established by your employement contract. That NDA typically outlives the end of your contract. Mar 23, 2017 at 9:38
  • Agreed with Robie and @MartinBonner, if it's simple bookkeeping stuff like confirming the return of company property, or a written reminder that you are still bound by the NDA you signed when you started (and that you are now signing to agree you will continue to honor the NDA after severance from the company), these are perfectly reasonable things to ask. Asking you to sign a new NDA or something forfeiting your vacation pay or anything like that... well, not so reasonable.
    – Doktor J
    Mar 23, 2017 at 14:33

I believe there is three things to note here.

  1. If he does withhold the pay (or informs you his intention to do so in writing) then you should contact the labour board for your province. It is illegal.

  2. Having worked in New Brunswick, I had a similar situation happen (gave 2 weeks notice, was informed they wanted me to sign a NDA, Non-Compete, and a few others). I agreed however informed them they would have to pay me for signing these as it was not part of my employee agreement. They swiftly dropped it and paid me normally.

  3. Since you never explained what the paperwork was - it might be helpful to find out first. It could be something as simple as a "I returned my work equipment, and turned over all my passwords/etc". Wait to see what it is before you escalate.

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    This strategy I find a good one, particularly the "pay me more to sign these". If they're worth something to the company, they should be willing to do so.
    – Joe
    Mar 21, 2017 at 20:27
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    Point 3 is important. Every place I've worked in the last several years has had innocuous departure paperwork like this, although many times we have the supervisor sign it, especially in cases of termination. Mar 23, 2017 at 11:48

Likely your provincial department of labour does not have anyone who's role involves gentle reminders to those considering breaking the law.

There is legitimate off boarding paperwork that he could be talking about. Return of keys, return of company equipment, balancing of petty cash, etc. From a purely practical perspective, it may cost you nothing to work with him whereas it may take a long time to get paid out through exercising your rights.

Withholding wages and vacation pay in this way is illegal in Canada BUT since you aren't in a financial position to hold out for a court ordered payout I'd suggest seeing what he is requesting you sign before deciding to make this stand.

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    The OP mentioned further NDA's, which would not be acceptable to sign. The MGR is bullying IMHO.
    – Neo
    Mar 21, 2017 at 15:18
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    @MisterPositive - Sometimes its easier just to give the bully a quarter and never see them again than try to pick a fight that could haunt you for some times. It is certainly distasteful but you will forget about that distaste before you leave the building. You don't need to fight every-time you are in the right. Sometimes it doesn't cost you anything to let the other guy win. Mar 21, 2017 at 15:21
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    @MisterPositive - They are completely toothless... thus really no downside to signing. A first year attorney could get the nda thrown out as coersed Mar 21, 2017 at 15:56
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    The OP doesn't actually say she's been asked to sign any additional NDAs though. She says that her boss has told her there will be "more paperwork" and later she says she's unwilling to sign any "NDAs, forms etc". Mar 21, 2017 at 16:07
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings The downside to signing is the former employer suing your new employer and/or the OP saying they violating the NDA. Even if you prevail you still have to go to court over it, so saying there's no downside is not true.
    – Andy
    Mar 21, 2017 at 17:39

It is perhaps worth knowing there that at least where I live (the UK) if you mark a document "WITHOUT PREJUDICE" then it can't be used as evidence in court. Using the equivalent language where you live could be useful if you wish to write your ex-boss a letter but don't want it to be usable in a court of law.

Also note that signing a document implies that you have read it, so make sure you really have. Read anything in small print especially carefully because whoever drafted the agreement might have reduced the print size to discourage you from reading something.

The information above is easy for even non-lawyers to find. No lawyer I have consulted is aware of any exceptions or loopholes.

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    A) UK laws don't have any relevance to Canadian laws, aside from deriving from the same legal tradition. This may or may not be applicable to Canada, but you should do that research before suggesting it. B) This is a gross oversimplification and that phrase doesn't mean what you think it means.
    – Bobson
    Mar 22, 2017 at 23:09
  • Yeah, I don't think that's what without prejudice means.
    – zelanix
    Mar 22, 2017 at 23:36
  • " if you mark a document "WITHOUT PREJUDICE" then it can't be used as evidence in court". That's simply not true. Documents so marked have been used in court, and documents not so marked have been excluded from evidence because they were clearly a "without prejudice" offer. Mar 23, 2017 at 9:40

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