Constructive Dismissal

An employee can be terminated when an employer unilaterally changes the essential or fundamental character of the terms of employment. This includes:

  • A substantial cut in pay, or authority or position
  • The employer makes significant changes which result in a demotion or significant reduction in salary
  • Other potential factors may be significant alteration in your schedule, hours of work, or work location, abusive treatment and harassment by an employer.
  • Given an ultimatum to  “quit or be fired”
  • Withdrawal of benefits

Employment law is governed by contract and when an employer reneges on an obligation the other party may be able to treat the contract as having been breached and therefore no longer valid. That is called a constructive dismissal. As is the case in virtually all aspects of employment law, nothing is black and white.

In some cases, depending on the nature of the change, damages may also be claimed. For instance, if an employee is subjected to persistent abusive, embarrassing or insulting behavior that can often be considered a constructive dismissal and if these actions have caused emotional and/or physical damage, there may be other recourses.

What avenues are open to an employee for recourse?

An employee can launch an action in court.

File a complaint with the Ministry of Labour under the Employment Standards Act.  You can also file a complain under the Workplace Safety Insurance Act (WSIA)

File a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario if an employee believes a part of their termination was based on discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

An employee can also file a complaint under the Pay Equity Act, the Occupational Health & Safety Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

But before you consider taking legal action it is very important to consider the consequences and have proper legal consultation to determine if the complaint can be settled with an employer without going to court.