Constructive Dismissal–Feel Like Your Employer Has You Targeted in the Crosshairs?

What exactly is constructive dismissal or wrongful dismissal?  Do you suspect that your employer is trying to force you to resign by making your work life difficult or impossible?  Has your employer reneged on certain contractual agreements?  Has your salary or wage been reduced without just cause?

Maybe you’re still working for your employer, or perhaps you've already quit.  Either way, you could be entitled to damages if your employer is found to be in breach of contract.  Wrongful dismissal and constructive dismissal cases occur more often that you think!


Constructive Dismissal – When You’re Forced to Quit Your Job

Our example comes from a case between the employer: a well-known multi-national company and the employee: a 50-year-old lease-financing expert hired to help implement a new marketing initiative in British Columbia.  Within the first six months of being hired, the employer gave notice to the employee that unless his “numbers improved” he would have his salary reduced.  This came into effect a short time later, along with several other unfavorable changes: he no longer had the support and service of a full-time administrative assistant and he wasn't receiving the commissions and bonuses that were previously agreed upon.  These breaches coupled with a rapidly declining work environment, left the employee with no choice, other than to resign. 


A Fine Line between Constructive Dismissal and Wrongful Dismissal

The employee was forced to leave because his employer failed to fulfill their contract, and so he took them to court for constructive dismissal.  The judge ruled in his favour, and he was awarded damages for wrongful termination.  Wrongful dismissal usually is awarded when an employee is dismissed without notice or without adequate pay.  In this case, the employer made the fundamental breach of contract by reducing the employee’s salary, followed by a seemingly systematic effort to undermine the employee’s position and his ability to work.  A constructive and wrongful dismissal are similar, and individual circumstances establish how charges are determined in court.


Constructive Dismissal – Continuing to Work for Your Employer

The employers appealed the case stating that reducing the employee’s salary was not a fundamental breach of contract because the company gave notice of the impending change.  The employer further claimed that even if a breach had occurred, the employee condoned it by continuing to work for them.

What happened?  The appeal was dismissed because the employer had committed multiple breaches of contract, and despite giving notice of the change in salary, the employee did not agree to, nor was reported to be happy with the situation.  He continued to work for the employer because he didn’t have a comparable job available elsewhere and hoped the situation would improve.  It didn’t and after 4 months, the employee decided enough was enough.


Constructive Dismissal – Does This Sound Familiar to You?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, seek legal advice, whether you are still working for your employer or not.  Constructive termination cases occur frequently and you may be entitled to compensation.


For more information, contact BC Employment Lawyer Bob Yeager.

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