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Can Constructive Dismissal Occur Due to Changes in Corporate Values?

Constructive Dismissal Occur Due to Changes in Corporate Values

As workplaces in Ontario and other provinces begin to reopen, some employers may introduce changes to the terms of employment for their returning staff. Some of these changes could potentially be a breach of the employee’s employment contract and lead to constructive dismissal.

While it can be difficult to prove that an employer committed a breach of an employee’s contract by changing their working conditions, this is exactly what constructive dismissal is about. This concept is based on the legal principle that an employee is entitled to a safe, healthy work environment and that their employer must take reasonable steps to ensure that. This obligation is enshrined in Ontario occupational health and safety legislation.

An employer can be found to have committed a breach of an employment contract by changing a fundamental aspect of their employee’s job, such as compensation or the workplace. These changes do not necessarily need to be directly referenced in an employee’s contract or job description, but can include a change to the employee’s reporting structure, significantly reducing an employee’s salary, or even moving them to a different workplace.

In most cases, a significant reduction in an employee’s pay is enough to trigger a claim for constructive dismissal. This is especially true where the employee can demonstrate that the decrease in their wages is not due to a business reason but rather was caused by the employer’s unilateral decision. Likewise, a demotion in duties and responsibilities is also likely to constitute a breach of an employment contract as it may mean that an employee no longer has the power to perform their work and can be considered a repudiation of their contract.

Can Constructive Dismissal Occur Due to Changes in Corporate Values?

Similarly, an unsafe or hostile work environment can also be a breach of the employment contract, which is why workplaces must be adequately trained and equipped to provide employees with a safe and secure place to work. Employers should not put their employees in an unsafe or unhealthy working environment, as this will not only damage morale but can also create significant operational problems for a business.

In most instances, employees will need to have raised a grievance or made an oral complaint in the first instance before they can consider taking action against their employer in court for constructive dismissal lawyer near me. This can be done by sending a “Without Prejudice” letter detailing the breach(s) and inviting the employer to rectify the situation before the employee feels compelled to resign. This process is a little more complicated in unionized environments, where grievances are typically handled through a union and the collective agreement.

However, it is still possible for non-unionized employees to pursue a claim for constructive dismissal, provided that their employer’s conduct is sufficiently serious. If you’re considering filing a claim for constructive dismissal, an experienced lawyer can help. Contact one of our team members for more information about our services or to schedule a consultation. We serve clients across Ontario, including Toronto, Hamilton, London and more.


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