Very simply, a constructive dismissal is when an employer makes fundamental changes to an employee’s job that are unfavourable to the employee. The employee may resign and demand a severance package as though the employer terminated the employment relationship. Examples of constructive dismissal may include:
- a demotion
- pay cut
- change in work location
- change in schedule
- change in job duties
- intolerable conditions in the workplace, such as harassment, discrimination or toxic work environment
A constructive dismissal may not necessarily be a single fundamental change, but a series of incremental changes that on the whole, represent a substantial change to the employment relationship.
Workplaces are not static. Change is inevitable and it is not uncommon for employees to dislike certain changes to their job. However, not all changes will amount to a constructive dismissal. For example, a change in job location that may entail an extra half hour of commuting time, while inconvenient, probably would not amount to a constructive dismissal. Conversely, a change in location that may add several hours of additional commuting time is more likely to amount to a constructive dismissal.
In order to have a valid claim for a severance package from your employer, the change has to be a substantial departure from the existing employment relationship, and it would be unreasonable in the circumstances to continue working. It is important that you obtain legal advice about whether you have a claim for a severance package before you consider leaving your job.
Author: Jonquille Pak, Whitten & Lublin