Employment Law

Alphabet’s DeepMind closing AI office in Edmonton: Employee rights


DeepMind, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is closing its artificial intelligence (AI) research centre in Edmonton.

In a statement to Global News on Jan. 24, an Alphabet spokesperson said the office was the only international site directly managed by the U.K.-based subsidiary, making it more resource-intensive than other locations.

“The Edmonton-based researchers have been offered the option to relocate to another DeepMind office, such as DeepMind Montreal, based in Google’s Montreal office, which will continue to operate as normal,” the statement from the tech giant reads.

News of the closure came a few days after Alphabet confirmed that it’s cutting approximately 12,000 jobs, or six per cent of its global workforce.

It remains unclear when DeepMind’s Edmonton office will close and how many workers will be affected.

According to LinkedIn, the company employs a total workforce of more than 1,400 people.

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Are DeepMind staff owed severance pay when the company closes its Edmonton office?

In Alberta, non-unionized employees at DeepMind are entitled to full severance pay if the closure of the Edmonton office results in them losing their job.

This includes individuals working full-time, part-time, or hourly in the province.

WATCH: Employment lawyer Lior Samfiru explains everything you need to know about severance pay on an episode of the Employment Law Show.

Severance in Alberta can be as much as 24 months’ pay. It’s calculated using several factors, including:

  • Age
  • Position at the company
  • Length of service
  • Ability to find new work

To figure out how much compensation you could be entitled to, use our firm’s free Severance Pay Calculator.

If your company’s offer falls short of what is appropriate, you have been wrongfully dismissed.

An experienced Alberta employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP can help you file a claim to ensure that you receive proper severance.

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Does DeepMind have to provide working notice to staff before closing its Edmonton office?

The short answer is yes. DeepMind must provide non-unionized employees in Alberta with working notice, or pay in lieu of notice (severance pay), before closing its Edmonton office.

Similar to calculating severance pay, the amount of working notice you should receive is determined using a variety of factors, including how long you have worked for the company, your position, salary, and ability to find similar employment after your termination.

However, many employers don’t provide staff in Canada with enough working notice, severance pay, or a combination of both.

If you didn’t receive enough working notice, you have been wrongfully dismissed.

An experienced employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP can determine if you received the proper amount of notice and help you secure the compensation you are owed if you didn’t.

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Can DeepMind force staff at its Edmonton office to relocate?

DeepMind can’t force non-unionized employees in Edmonton to relocate to another office, such as Montreal or Toronto.

Employment contracts rarely include clauses that allow companies to alter the work location of staff.

If your employer tells you that you must transfer to another office, and you didn’t agree to being relocated in your contract, speak with the experienced employment law team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

Our lawyers in Edmonton and Calgary can review your agreement, help you file a constructive dismissal claim, and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.

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Can DeepMind punish staff in Edmonton if they refuse to relocate?

If non-unionized workers in Edmonton didn’t previously agree to being relocated in their employment contract, it’s unlikely that DeepMind can make significant adjustments to their job to punish them for refusing to transfer to another office.

Large modifications, such as a demotion, longer shifts, or reduced pay, are illegal in Alberta.

If your employer makes substantial changes to your job because you refused to relocate, the law allows you to resign and pursue full severance pay through a constructive dismissal claim.

However, you shouldn’t quit your job until you speak with an experienced Alberta employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

We can confirm that you have been constructively dismissed, assess your legal options, and help you secure the money you are legally entitled to.

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Can DeepMind fire staff in Edmonton for refusing to relocate?

DeepMind can fire staff in Edmonton for refusing to relocate — even if they didn’t previously agree to it in their employment contract. This is called a termination without cause.

Companies can let non-unionized employees in Alberta go for any reason, as long as:

If you refuse to relocate to another office, but you previously agreed to the transfer in your employment contract, your employer could have grounds to fire you for just cause.

This type of termination would prevent you from receiving a severance package or accessing Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

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Can DeepMind force staff in Edmonton to sign a severance offer immediately?

DeepMind can’t legally force non-unionized employees in Alberta to accept a severance offer immediately.

Once you receive an offer from your employer, don’t sign it until you speak with an experienced employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

As long as you didn’t accept the offer, you have two years from the date of your dismissal to pursue full severance pay.

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Lost your job? Speak with an employment lawyer

If you are fired or let go for any reason, contact the experienced employment law team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

Our employment lawyers in Edmonton and Calgary have helped numerous non-unionized individuals across Alberta resolve their workplace issues. We also have employment lawyers in B.C. and Ontario.

We can review your situation, enforce your rights, and ensure that you receive the compensation you are owed.

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