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Constructive Dismissal, generally, is when an employer essentially terminates the employee through their actions without having a formal termination meeting or saying the words “you’re fired”.
Constructive Dismissal Services
Constructive Dismissal Process
How does constructive dismissal work?
Employer actions that can result in a constructive dismissal are when the employer breaches a written or unwritten term in the employee’s contract. If the breach is serious and the employee resigns their employment, the court may treat it as a dismissal instead of as a typical voluntary resignation. When a court treats a resignation this way, it allows the employee to pursue severance as if it were a wrongful dismissal.
Not every breach of an employment contract is sufficient to allow a resignation to be considered a constructive dismissal in Alberta. Generally, it either has to be one major breach of a term of employment, or otherwise shown through the employer’s actions that they do not intend to follow the employment contract.
For example, a major breach could be that your wages have been rolled back significantly and you were never consulted or agreed to the reduction in wages. An example of the employer’s actions showing that they do not want to follow the employment contract would be allowing a toxic workplace to continue, despite the unwritten understanding that every employee is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.
Please also note that not having a written employment contract does not prevent an employee from claiming constructive dismissal: in that case, we would establish your employment terms by reference to what happened in practice: your job duties, compensation, etc., and then show how elements of that have changed or been breached.
Causes for Constructive Dismissal
There many things that can be considered grounds for a constructive dismissal claim The following are common signs of a potential constructive dismissal claim:
- Compensation (wages) cuts and other changes
- Demotions, or title or duty changes
- Taking away privileges
- Taking away reporting employees
- Suspensions (and possibly other discipline)
- Changes to working conditions, location, etc.
- Changes to management structure
- Harassment / Bullying
- Generally hostile or unsafe work environment
The lawyers at Bow River Law are skilled at analyzing the likelihood that a given situation is a constructive dismissal in Alberta. We have constructive dismissal experience both in our home city of Calgary and across Alberta. We can help navigate the legal situation both during the employment relationship and after it ends, for employees or employers.
- If you are experiencing changes of any kind at work in Alberta, it is useful to get legal advice sooner than later. Employers often have lawyers, and many employers are aware of the risk that what they are doing could amount to constructive dismissal. If you try to handle employment changes without the advice of a lawyer, you may not be protecting your interests properly and you may be at a disadvantage if the employer has a lawyer early-on and you do not. Let us help you even the playing field.
- If you have already quit your job, you may still have a strong constructive dismissal claim against your employer. Let us help you.
- If you are an Alberta employer, we can help you make necessary organizational changes and handle personnel challenges while reducing your risk of a constructive dismissal claim. Let us help you.
Constructive Dismissal FAQ
- 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.
- My company just cut my salary. Can they do that?
A salary cut is often considered to be “constructive dismissal”, which is where an employee is allowed to resign and sue for severance as if he or she were dismissed.
- Is my manager allowed to ask me questions about my sex life?
Your manager is not generally allowed to ask you questions about your sex life, and if this is happening you may have a valid legal complaint such as harassment, constructive dismissal, or a human rights complaint. However, there are exceptions to this rule so if your manager is asking you these kinds of personal questions you should consult a lawyer right away.
- Is my employer allowed to take away some of my sales territory?
Employers are allowed to manage their workforce, but they do not have unlimited rights to take things like sales territories away. If this is happening, you may have a legal complaint for unpaid wages or constructive dismissal.
- Is my boss allowed to pay my wages late?
Employers are not allowed to miss pay days. Employers are generally required to pay employees at least once per month, and more frequently if that is the contract / arrangement between the worker and employer.
- What should I do if Human resources has suspended me pending the outcome of an investigation?
If human resources has suspended you pending the outcome of an investigation, your employment may be at risk of being terminated and you may have a claim for unpaid wages or constructive dismissal. You should contact a lawyer immediately.
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