BOW RIVER LAW LLP

Alberta’s Workforce Lawyers

At Bow River Law LLP, we are skilled, experienced, and dedicated employment lawyers for any issue affecting the workforce. We handle dismissal, harassment, discrimination, COVID-19 matters, human rights, and other legal issues involving the workplace. We are also experienced civil litigators. We represent primarily employees, but we have many employer clients as well.

Bow River Law LLP is an employment, human rights, and labour law boutique firm in Calgary, headed by Sarah Coderre and Joel Fairbrother.

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Labour and Employment Lawyers

If your rights have been violated and you require representation, we are here to help you throughout the process and find a solution.

Severance Review / Negotiation

Bow River Law has a skilled and experienced team that is ready to determine how much severance a dismissed employee is entitled to.

Wrongful Dismissal / Unjust Dismissal

If an employer has terminated any employee's position without just cause or reasonable notice, the employee is usually entitled to severance. If the employee works in aviation, banking or telecommunications, they may also be entitled to reinstatement to their job.

Constructive Dismissal

Even if an employee's employment has not been officially "terminated" by the employer, if the employer has slashed compensation, changed some aspect of the employment such as job duties, or allowed a toxic work environment, the employee may be entitled to resign and call it a "constructive dismissal."

Discrimination

Discrimination can happen when a employee is treated in a negative way because of their race, skin color, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity or expression, disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, income, family status, or sexual orientation. Canada has Human Rights laws in place to protect employees from being discriminated against.

Harassment / Bullying

Bullying, rude comments, belittling treatment, and unwanted sexual advances count as harassment in the workplace. All employers are required to prevent these deeds occurring in the workplace and to stop it when it does happen. Do not put up with this: contact us today to learn about your options.

COVID-19

COVID 19 has created many new challenges in the workplace. We can help employees get their safety and other rights protected, and we can help employers navigate their rights and obligations in these difficult circumstances.

Contact us today to book an appointment

Use the form on the right to contact us directly to book an appointment to talk about your problems and find a solution that works for you. We are here to help in any way we can.

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Dismissal / Termination

Were you fired, or think you might soon get fired?

Employers often make low-ball severance offers and hope the employee will just sign the paperwork, and it often works because employees are not aware of their legal rights. If you have been given a severance offer, or you believe your employment will be terminated soon, Bow River Law can help you pursue what the law says you deserve.

In other cases, employers may exaggerate misconduct allegations and claim they have just cause in order to try to pay employees nothing or way less than they are entitled to. Just cause is difficult for an employer to establish, and when many employers claim they have just cause, they are often just counting on the employee not knowing their legal rights or the law.

Whatever your situation, the lawyers at Bow River Law will review your severance package and the circumstances around your termination, and give you advice and guidance on your rights and next steps. Our experienced lawyers have been able to get increased severance offers from employers in many cases, and they are strong, effective advocates both outside and inside the courtroom. Let us help you.

Pregnant woman under stress from employer.

Discrimination

Are you being treated poorly at work? Do you think it is because of something you have no control over, such as your race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation?

Human rights laws in Canada are designed to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace, but discrimination still happens. The Alberta Human Rights Commission can provide general assistance and guidance to individuals who wish to file complaints, but they cannot provide you with legal advice or legal representation. Our lawyers have experience in discrimination and human rights matters in the workplace, and we have developed effective strategies for resolving matters with employers. In some cases where a resolution with the employer is not possible, our lawyers can provide you with legal advice and guidance throughout the complaint process and be a strong advocate for you.

Human rights matters are deeply personal. Our lawyers want to hear your story and fight for you. Let us help you.

Harassment

Are you experiencing harassment or bullying at work?

If you are facing bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, or other mistreatment at work that is impacting your life and affecting your health, Bow River Law is compassionate and has the experience and insight needed to properly handle these situations. Our lawyers have assisted many employees in resolving toxic work environments. In cases where leaving is the only option, our lawyers have often been effective in getting employees fair severance packages.

Harassment and bullying in the workplace can be a distressing and isolating experience, but you are not alone. Let us help you.

COVID-19

Are you afraid to go back to work? Is your employer not taking COVID-19 seriously? Do you have concerns about whether you may be forced to get a vaccination?

The law on COVID-19 is quickly changing, but our lawyers are up to date on the latest developments and changes to your rights as an employee in these uncertain times. Our lawyers have the skills and knowledge to help you work towards a resolution with your employer, and if a resolution is not possible, they can help you understand your options for moving forward. The pandemic has changed the workplace in many ways, and our lawyers have the necessary skill and experience to help you understand and assert your legal rights. Let us help you.

You Asked, We Answered: FAQ's

  • I did something wrong at work. Will you still help me?

    We will still help you if you did something wrong. We are not here to judge you; we are here to help you. Give us a call.

  • What can I do if my Union will not help me?

    If a union refuses to help an employee with an issue, or provides inadequate help, it might be a failure of the union’s “duty of fair representation” to the employee. An employment and labour lawyer can help you make a Labour Relations Board complaint or find another solution to this sort of problem.

  • Can I still sue my employer if I signed a release already?

    Signing a release makes it much harder to successfully sue your employer, but it is possible in some cases such as where the severance is below the minimum amount allowed or the employer forces the employee to sign. Speak to an employment lawyer to understand if you can still sue in your specific case.

  • My employer is saying that I will only receive my statutory termination pay if I don’t sign their release by a certain date. Is that true?

    Your statutory termination pay is often only a fraction of the compensation you are entitled to under the law. It is important to review your severance package with an employment lawyer before you sign off on it because often times, the more an employer is pressuring you to sign off on it, the worse the offer actually is. Have a consultation with an employment lawyer to learn about your legal entitlements on termination, and whether the package offered to you measures up.

  • My boss just demoted me. What should I do?

    A demotion is often considered “constructive dismissal”, which is where an employee is allowed to resign and sue for severance as if he or she were dismissed. If your boss had demoted you, you should speak to an employment lawyer right away about your options.

  • Do I have to go back to work during COVID-19?

    Some employers have specific limitations imposed by the government, and they have to follow those. If your employer is allowed to be open, they are required to take steps to keep the workplace safe, like physical barriers, sanitization, masks policies, and distancing measures. If you are vulnerable to COVID because of age or other health reasons, your employer may need to go even further or may be required to allow you to stay home.

  • I have a physical disability, and there is a part of my job I can’t do. Can my employer fire me?

    An employer is required to accommodate a disability. Even if there is a part of your job you can’t do, your employer is probably not allowed to fire you for that. You should speak to an employment lawyer right away to help you handle this.

  • My Former Employer sued me. What should I do?

    If you have been sued, you need to speak to an employment lawyer immediately. You have a very short time to defend against any lawsuit, even you do not agree with anything stated in it. The good news is, often employers will have a tough time holding an employee liable in damages if the employee gets legal advice right away.

  • What should I do if my employer wants me to sign an employment contract?

    You should get legal advice before signing anything, especially an employment contract. Employment contracts can have a major impact on your rights, and the impact is not always obvious when you read through them.

  • What sort of employment policies does my company need?

    Typical policies include an employee handbook that deals with things like values, compensation, vacation, harassment, drugs and alcohol, conflict of interest, confidentiality, discipline, etc. Every company has different needs, and an employment lawyer can help you sort this out.

  • What are my restrictions if I leave my employer and start competing?

    Every employee has obligations to protect certain interests of their former employer, but certain management or client-facing employees, called “fiduciaries” have more substantial obligations. Usually these obligations include not soliciting former clients for a reasonable period of time after leaving, but usually you can compete. You could be personally liable if you are not careful with this, so you should speak to an employment lawyer first.

  • My boss is trying to get me to quit. What should I do?

    Employers sometimes try to get their employees to quit, because they want to get rid of that employee but they do not want to pay severance. However, depending on what is happening, it might be “constructive dismissal”, and you might still be entitled to severance if you quit. Speak to an employment lawyer for help.

  • If my boss fires me just before I was supposed to get a bonus, do they still have to pay it to me?

    In many cases an employer is still required to pay out the bonus after terminating your employment. You should speak to an employment lawyer to assess your specific situation and provide you advice.

  • Can my employer lay me off without pay?

    Although the Employment Standards Code appears to allow this, some cases have found that an employer is not allowed to lay off an employee without pay, and that it counts as “constructive dismissal”, where the employee can quit and sue as if he or she were dismissed. Employers have strategies to improve the chances that a layoff will be allowed, so it is important that you get legal advice as soon as possible if you are given notice of a layoff.

  • I left my employer. Can I compete with them now?

    In many cases, you can compete with your former employer after you leave. This depends partly on whether you have signed a non-competition agreement or non-solicitation agreement, and partly on the position you had with your former employer. Certain high-up positions or client-facing positions have some obligations after leaving an employer, even if they have not signed a non-compete or non-solicit. Even if you signed a non-compete or non-solicit, it might not be enforceable. A skilled and experienced employment lawyer can help you understand your rights on this.

  • Someone made a complaint to my professional college about me. What should I do?

    If you have a complaint of professional misconduct against you, chances are your employment is in jeopardy and your professional college is investigating as well. You should speak to an employment lawyer right away to help you through this.

  • How much severance is a dismissed employee entitled to?

    Severance is not the same for everyone, and it is determined on a case-by-case basis. The most common factors considered are age, years of service, and character of employment, but there are many other factors in different situations. It is worth speaking to an employment lawyer with skill and experience to identify the factors which help make the strongest severance argument in your case.

  • I did something wrong at work, and my employer says it has just cause. Is there anything I can do?

    If your employer says it has just cause, usually there is still something you can do. Most misconduct is not just cause for dismissal, and even if the misconduct is fairly bad you have options and often will be able to get severance.

  • What should I do if human resources says there is a workplace complaint against me?

    If you have a workplace complaint against you, you are required to cooperate with the investigation, but you still have rights. Speak with an employment lawyer to guide you through the process.

  • Can my employer just terminate my employment without a good reason?

    Usually non-unionized employees can be terminated without a reason, as long as the employer provides you notice or severance. However, sometimes the circumstances of how you were terminated is not allowed, and in the case of federally-regulated employees like pilots, telecommunications workers or bank employees, just cause is often required. Speak to an employment lawyer to understand if your termination was illegal and/or if you got enough severance.

  • Can my boss fire me if I have to be home with my kids?

    An employer is required to accommodate your need to secure childcare for your child.  This is a complicated issue and not all cases are the same.  If this is happening at your workplace, speak to an employment lawyer right away for help.

  • Can I fire a Pregnant Employee?

    An employer is generally allowed to terminate the employment of a pregnant employee, as long as the pregnancy is not a factor in the dismissal.  If pregnancy is a factor, the termination is a discriminatory human rights violation in Alberta. 

  • Can I use my invention if I got dismissed?

    If you invented something and your employment was terminated, you may or may not be able to use it now.  Sometimes employers have rights to inventions made during your employment, especially where the invention relates to your former job with the employer.  Get legal help before deciding whether to use an invention.

  • Should I file a harassment complaint at work?

    Filing a workplace harassment complaint, or any complaint with human resources, can be dangerous and can backfire.  Regardless of what the workplace policy says, speak to an employment lawyer before filing a harassment complaint at work.

  • Do I have to sign a written warning?

    You should not sign a written warning if your employer is trying to get you to admit to something that did not happen.  Sometimes written warnings just ask for an acknowledgment by the employee that they were warned, and if that’s true then you may be obligated to sign the warning.  It is a good idea to always get legal advice before signing anything.

  • Do I have to look for work after having my employment terminated?

    If an employee is terminated but has not accepted a severance offer, they do usually have an obligation to try to “mitigate” by looking for other work.  Potential job sites include Indeed, Workopolis, and Government of Alberta Job Board.

  • What can I do if my employer violated my privacy?

    If an employer violates your privacy, you may have a variety of legal claims against them, but there is also some public information available at the website for the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner.

  • Who can I talk to if my boss wants me to do something unsafe at work?

    If your boss is asking you to do something unsafe at work, you may have a variety of legal claims against them, but there is also some public information available at the website for Alberta Occupational Health and Safety

What they say

Testimonials

  • Dorian

    Sarah at Bow River Law is immensely talented at interpreting nuanced situations under the law, and providing clear guidance and support. She is extremely knowledgeable, considerate, and is methodical in her approach. 100% recommend.

  • Bill Hogan

    In 2020 I was temporarily layed off from my job and after 180 days I was permanently terminated after 8 1/2 years. My former company complied with the Alberta rules but I felt it was not enough. I was recommended to Joel at Bow River Law by my accountant. I was happy with the service from start to finish. I would recommend Joel Fairbrother to anyone who would like to find out their options regarding employment law

  • Nicole Wilks

    SO happy to have Kim Holland on board here - she is an amazing advocate and is a huge asset to the firm.

  • Sol Ramsay

    in 2021 i was let go by my employers. Thanks to Joel Fairbrother i was able to get fair compensation. excellent work by Bow River Law LLP, i would highly recommend them for all your legal needs.

  • Todd Kirk

    I worked with Sarah Coderre at recommendation from another firm. I had an urgent need to look at and she responded immediately to set up a discussion. She was we’ll prepared which made the discussions simple and clear. I continued to work with her through the matters at hand and she was personable, professional and diligent. I will continue to work with her on any needs going forward and I would strongly recommend her to anyone seeking related legal advice.
    Todd kirk

  • Stephanie Lottes

    Thank you Sarah Coderre for providing excellent legal counsel in a time of need. Sarah's wisdom, guidance and genuine authenticity brought a huge sense of comfort during a difficult time. I highly recommend Bow River Law LLP for anyone who needs professional perspective with added clarity in a timely manner.

  • Kayla Kreutzer

    Sarah at Bow River Law is an extremely knowledgeable, professional and personable lawyer.

    I had the privilege of working with Sarah this year; she provided me with the information, guidance and support necessary to navigate a tricky legal situation.

    Sarah’s open communication and diligence throughout the process was exceptional.

    I strongly recommend Sarah and Bow River Law to anyone seeking legal advice.

  • Dace Sevcuna

    I had the privilege to have Sarah Coderre as my lawyer. She knows the law inside out and is well respected by judges.

    She is very thorough, efficient, accessible, and really good at communication. Sarah stepped me through every step of the process, explained my options, and provided guidance when I needed. I knew exactly what was happening, what to expect, and what the next steps would be.

    Sarah is also really mindful of the costs and gives estimates along the way so you are always aware of your upcoming expenses.

    If there is anything that you can take from my review is that, in addition to Sarah being a really good lawyer, I felt like she was my trusted advisor.

  • Stephen Jacobson

    In March of 2020, due to a decline the oil and gas industry, I lost my job with the company I worked for over 11 years.

    I retained Kimberley Holland to assist with reviewing the severance package offered by the company and learned that I was entitled to more than what they had offered. With her assistance, we were able to successfully negotiate a fair settlement. I was very happy with the level of service I received.

    I would strongly encourage anyone who has lost a job recently to get their package reviewed by Ms. Holland.

  • Doug Radke

    I had the good fortune to work with Sarah Coderre at Bow River Law LLP when I was laid off recently. Sarah is not only very professional but her extensive knowledge of employment and contract law really reinforced my confidence in her recommendations. If you have ANY concerns regarding your current employment situation, I would highly recommend Sarah.

  • Monica Yañez

    Joel Fairbrother lives to his impeccable reputation as a legend in employment law in Canada and he is simply put, the best, if not one of the best lawyers in Calgary. Joel is 100% realistic and will not waste your time. A tremendous negotiator as well, from the first consultation you will see the inside and out knowledge of case law.

    If I was the opposing counsel, I would tread carefully when Joel is on the other side. I would retain Joel again in a heartbeat and highly recommend you do as well if you need an employment lawyer expert.