My employer promised benefits, but I’ve received none

Date: Friday, October 28, 2011
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: The Globe & Mail
The question: I started a new position almost six months ago. At the time, I received a written offer of employment that stated several benefits including receiving health and dental benefits after three months and employer-paid RRSP contributions after six months. Now approaching the six-month mark, I have yet to receive my health and dental benefits, despite repeated requests to my direct supervisor and human resources. Is an offer of employment considered a contract? If so, what options do I have? I’m worried staying with my employer assumes I accept this violation of their offer.
The answer: Your offer of employment letter is tantamount to an employment contract – and just as your employer would hold you to its terms, you can rely on the representations and promises contained within it.
The first step is to immediately protest your employer’s failure to supply you with benefits in writing. By doing nothing, you will eventually be viewed as condoning the situation and you will lose the right to challenge it later on.
If, despite your protests, your employer refuses to provide you with what you have been promised, or at the least something of equal value that you are content with, then you can leave and sue for damages consisting of a reasonable amount of lost salary while you look for another job. This may not be your preference, but if you viewed the benefits as one of the reasons you took this job, then you must decide whether staying without those benefits is worth it. If not, you can leave.
There is a third option, assuming your employer continues to refuse to provide the benefits and if you cannot afford to leave. You can remain at work while you sue for damages equal to the value of the benefits you were promised. This is unconventional and, although it may lead to the breakdown of your workplace relationship, it is a legal remedy that is being used and enforced by the courts more often.