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Constructive Dismissal Lawyer

Explore the legal aspects of constructive dismissal and how employees in Surrey, British Columbia can address forced resignations.

Understanding Constructive Dismissal: When Quitting is Not a Choice

Constructive dismissal is a form of wrongful dismissal that involves an employer making significant, unilateral changes to the employee’s contract that move the employee to quit. This amounts to pushing the worker out and can lead to legal action for compensation.


Constructive dismissal refers to an employer’s unilateral changes in the terms of an employee’s position to the degree that they terminate employment. At this point, you – as the employee – have the option of either resigning or considering the employment relationship terminated. You can address the matter of your termination without pay through legal means, which may entitle you to a severance package. Constructive dismissal of the employment contract is a complex legal matter, and having an experienced Surrey employment lawyer on your side is advised.

Defining Constructive Dismissal in the Surrey Employment Context

A 1997 decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada is often referred to in cases involving constructive dismissal throughout Canada. In this case, the Court finds that it is a form of constructive dismissal when an employer takes it upon themself to change the primary terms of the employee’s job requirements to the degree that the employee leaves their job as a result. At this point, the employee hasn’t resigned, but they haven’t been dismissed either. While the employer doesn’t formally fire the employee, they do take actions that cause the employee to leave, which has the same effect as a dismissal. By unilaterally altering the employment agreement to this extent, the employer – in effect – dismisses the employee, and this is where the term constructive dismissal comes from. By altering the essential terms set by the employment contract, the employer ignores their own obligations, and in so doing, they terminate the contract. Under such circumstances, the employee is entitled to severance pay in lieu of warning, and – in certain situations – they may also be entitled to further damages.

Identifying Constructive Dismissal: Key Indicators and Examples

Some of the most common signs of constructive dismissal include:


  • A significant change in the shift or the hours worked, such as going from a day shift to one that is overnight
  • Failure to pay you for the employee’s work, such as by neglecting to pay their salary, their overtime, or their vacation pay
  • A reduction in the employee’s compensation, such as unilaterally reducing their salary or overhauling the bonus calculation process in a manner that is highly unfavorable to them
  • The relocation of the employee’s workplace to the degree that it makes getting to work significantly more difficult
  • A demotion, which can include changing the employee’s reporting structure or diminishing the employee’s duties
  • A temporary layoff, which isn’t generally legal at common law
  • A toxic or hostile work environment that leaves the employee subject to discrimination, threats, harassment, or unfair treatment

If you claim constructive dismissal based on a toxic or hostile work environment, you may be entitled to more comprehensive damages.

Impact of a Toxic Work Environment on Constructive Dismissal Claims

Constructive dismissal can be traced to a range of sources that include a toxic or hostile work environment. When this is the case, however, you can seek punitive damages that aren’t generally available. Punitive damages are designed to punish the employer’s wrongdoing in the matter – which refers to creating or allowing a toxic work environment – rather than to compensate you for your losses.

The Impact of Workplace Harassment and Hostile Environments

Harassment in the workplace translates to a hostile work environment and can support a constructive dismissal claim. Being harassed on the job can lead to serious consequences that leave victims emotionally scarred. Common examples of workplace harassment include all the following:


  • Harassing the employee verbally
  • Harassing the employee sexually or physically
  • Harassing the employee emotionally
  • Engaging in cyberbullying against the employee
  • Retaliating against the employee

The Legal Framework of Constructive Dismissal in British Columbia

The test for identifying constructive dismissal comes from another Supreme Court of Canada case, and it is a two-pronged tool. To begin, the employer’s unilateral change must be found to have breached the specific terms of the employment contract. If such a breach is identified, it must reach the level of substantially changing an essential contractual term.


Constructive dismissal can take one of two forms that include:


  • An employer who breaches an essential contractual term with a single unilateral act
  • An employer who engages in a series of acts that – when considered in relation to one another – demonstrate the employee’s intention to no longer comply with the contract

Generally, the burden of establishing constructive dismissal falls to the employee who makes the claim. When an administrative suspension is in question, however, the employer is required to demonstrate that the suspension is either reasonable or justified. If you believe you may be the victim of constructive dismissal, it’s time to consult with a seasoned constructive dismissal lawyer.

Employee Rights and Employer Obligations: Navigating the Legal Landscape

Employees have important rights under the law, and employers have important responsibilities and obligations. A better understanding of these can help you bring a stronger claim.

The Role of the Employment Standards Act in Constructive Dismissal

British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act establishes minimum standards regarding employee rights and the conduct and responsibilities of employers. The employment contract plays a pivotal role in defining these rights and responsibilities. Many legal disputes related to employment arise from breached workplace policies, which include constructive dismissal claims. In order to successfully navigate the path forward, it’s always in your best interest to have a focused employment lawyer in your corner.

The Role of Employment Contracts in Constructive Dismissal Cases

Employment contracts are often essential to constructive dismissal cases. The contractual terms outline the terms and conditions that apply and guide the employer’s discretion in terms of making changes to the job in question, such as in relation to work hours or work location – as discussed above. It should also be noted that the work contract can’t include terms that bypass constructive dismissal laws.

Evaluating Employer Conduct: When Does it Lead to Constructive Dismissal?

Every case of constructive dismissal is unique to the circumstances involved, and each case must be considered on its own merits. While this brand of wrongful dismissal can take many forms, whether or not it reaches the level of constructive dismissal is a matter of degree. If the changes your employer makes go beyond minor adjustments, are outside the predefined terms included in your contract or aren’t subject to your approval, it could be a constructive dismissal.

Addressing Changes in Employment Terms: What Constitutes a Breach?

Not every change in employment terms supports constructive dismissal, but the following examples generally fit the bill.


  • Piling the employee with work to the degree that they can’t keep up or to the degree that they experience significant stress and anxiety as a result
  • Suspending an employee who doesn’t have a temporary layoff provision in their work contract
  • Putting constant pressure on the employee or intimidating them to the extent that their ability to do their job is seriously compromised
  • Altering the work environment to the extent that it interferes with the employee’s ability to do their job
  • Implementing unfair performance targets that are nearly impossible to reach

The underlying motive of these tactics is pushing the employee to quit, and such actions constitute constructive dismissal.

Understanding Severance Pay and Termination Benefits in Constructive Dismissal

In those cases where constructive dismissal is proven, employees are often entitled to compensation in the form of severance pay that’s based on the working notice or reasonable notice they were owed. The amount involved is based on factors like the following:


  • The employee’s length of employment
  • The employee’s position
  • The employee’s age
  • The availability of a position that is similar to the employee’s current employment

If the employer is ultimately determined to have acted in bad faith, the damages sought can be more expansive.

Understanding Employee Compensation and Severance Packages

When an employer lets an employee go, they don’t need cause for doing so, but they must allow the employee adequate warning, adequate severance pay, or a combination of the two. For example, if the employee has worked for the employer for a minimum of three continuous months, they are entitled to a notice period of at least one week – or to severance pay that covers the week. The longer the employee has worked for the employer, the more notice – or severance pay – they are entitled to

Navigating the Process: Filing a Constructive Dismissal Claim

To file a constructive dismissal case, you’ll generally have to resign from your job, and the burden of proof, which must reach the balance of probabilities, is on you shoulders. If you fail to meet this standard, your resignation won’t be classified as constructive dismissal, and you won’t be entitled to severance or termination pay.


If you believe you were wrongfully terminated via constructive dismissal, there are several important steps you should take, including:


  • Seek the skilled legal guidance of a savvy employment lawyer.
  • Put your rejection of your employer’s substantial change to your job description in writing.
  • Document everything that happens in your case, which includes taking careful notes.
  • Don’t take a wait-and-see approach – doing nothing can be interpreted as acquiescing to your employer’s unilateral implementation of substantial change, which can leave you without a claim.

The Importance of Legal Representation: Role of Employment Lawyers

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of having a trusted employment lawyer on your side in a constructive dismissal claim. Your skilled lawyer will help to ensure that you avoid the mistakes that employees in your difficult position tend to make – in addition to ably taking on all the following primary tasks:


  • Gathering and knowledgeably compiling all the evidence and documentation relevant to your claim
  • Fiercely advocating for your legal rights
  • Skillfully negotiating a claim resolution that supports your legal rights
  • Being well prepared to take your case to trial if your employer chooses not to engage in fair and productive negotiations

Comparing Constructive and Wrongful Dismissal: Key Differences

Constructive dismissal is a specific form of wrongful dismissal. If you have been constructively dismissed, your employer’s unilateral changes to the terms of your employment pushed you out of your job. Wrongful dismissal, on the other hand, refers to a range of dismissal practices that are not acceptable under Canadian law.


Wrongful dismissal is a broad term that covers an employer’s explicit termination of employment –whether for cause or not. While employers have the right to end employment at their own discretion, they must follow careful legal guidelines – or entitlements under the law – in the process. These include providing adequate warning, adequate severance pay, or a combination of the two.

Analyzing Case Studies: Lessons from Constructive Dismissal Rulings

As noted, constructive dismissal laws are guided by past court rulings. In Farber v. Royal Trust Co., the court broadened the scope of constructive dismissal with the determination that changes to key elements of an employment contract can amount to constructive dismissal. The ruling in this case emphasizes the critical nature of mutual consent in relation to altered contractual terms.


In Potter v. New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission, a two-pronged test for identifying constructive dismissal was introduced. The first step is assessing whether the employer’s actions breached the employment contract. From here, the court must determine whether a reasonable person – under the same circumstances – would find that the contract’s essential terms were substantially changed.


A primary element of this legal background is the matter of reasonableness in relation to both the employer’s changes and the employee’s reaction to them. In other words, were the changes made by the employer reasonable in scope, and was the employee reasonable in their assessment of constructive dismissal?

Challenges in Proving Constructive Dismissal: Legal Hurdles

There are several important legal hurdles to proving constructive dismissal that you should be aware of. As the employee, the burden of proving the constructive dismissal lies with you, and if you simply accept whatever changes your employer makes, it can be interpreted as you agree to the new, objectionable terms. For your claim of constructive dismissal to hold, the change must be unilateral – or one-sided – which means you weren’t in agreement on the matter.


Additional risk factors include failing to consult with an accomplished employment lawyer early in the process, quitting your job before carefully assessing the situation, and waiting to see what happens without taking action. Taking a proactive stance with skilled legal backing is the best path forward.

Legal Strategies: How to Strengthen a Constructive Dismissal Case

Constructive dismissal cases are more likely to go to court than most other forms of wrongful dismissal because the matter of whether or not you were wrongfully dismissed in the first place is in question. This makes it important to bring your strongest case, and each of the following can help:


  • Work closely with a well-respected constructive dismissal lawyer from the outset.
  • From the moment that constructive dismissal occurs, begin documenting your experience in earnest. The evidence you collect can be critical to your case.
  • Don’t make decisions based on your emotional response – allow your focused attorney to help you make the right choices for you in the context of your unique case.
  • Don’t simply wait for things to get better. They are unlikely to, and your silence can be read as your way of agreeing with your employer’s unilateral changes.

Looking Ahead: Trends and Developments in Employment Law

Legislative actions continue to shape the landscape of employment law, including the following recent developments;


  • The recently enacted Workers Compensation Act Amendment in British Columbia adds a legal duty for both employers and workers to cooperate in the early and safe return of injured employees to work. Employers of more than 20 employees are also required to maintain the employment of those injured workers who were employed for at least 12 months prior to being injured.
  • Canada’s recently enacted CRA administrative policy determines – for the purposes of payroll – each worker’s province or territory of employment (POE), which is especially significant for those employees who are fully remote.

Reach Out for the Skilled Legal Guidance of an Experienced Surrey, British Columbia, Employment Lawyer Today

Robert Doran at Doran Law is a practiced Surrey constructive dismissal lawyer who is well-equipped to help guide your case to an optimal outcome that bolsters your rights and supports your rightful compensation. To learn more, please contact or call us at 604-542-9455 today.


I’ve been fired without cause and my employer is putting together a severance package for my review. How long must I wait for compensation?

Negotiating a fair severance package can take a considerable amount of time and shouldn’t be rushed. Consult with a dedicated employment lawyer today.


As a full-time employee, how long should my lunch break be?

As a full-time employee, you are entitled to a 30-minute lunch break in your 8-hour shift. If you work overtime on a given day, you may be entitled to two meal breaks.


Is there a minimum legal age for hiring an employee?

To hire someone who is under the age of 16, special restrictions must be adhered to, including:


  • The child must work under the supervision of someone who is at least 19 years old.
  • Generally, the employer must obtain written permission from a parent or guardian.
  • The employer must ensure that the work involved isn’t categorised as hazardous.

How much does an employment lawyer cost in Ontario?

Most reputable employment lawyers in Canada, work on contingency, which means you won’t owe anything unless your claim is successful. At that point, you’ll pay a predetermined percentage of your settlement.


What is a pocket employment lawyer?

The term pocket employment lawyer refers to your ability to get a feel for your employment-based legal concern on your phone or device prior to calling a legal firm. At Doran Law, our contact form invites you to share the details of your claim, which allows us to provide you with more detailed guidance upfront.


What is the jurisdiction of employment law in Canada?

Generally, provinces have jurisdiction over most employment and labour law cases in Canada. In extraordinary cases, however, the federal government presides.


How much does an employment lawyer cost BC?

Reputable employment lawyers throughout BC typically work on a contingency basis, which means they get a predetermined percentage of the settlement or court award – if the case is successful.


What governs employment law in Canada?

In Canada, employment law is governed by the following:


An Experienced BC Lawyer Can Help 

Robert Doran is an esteemed labour lawyer at  Doran Law who has decades of experience guiding difficult employment-based cases like yours toward favourable resolutions, and he’s here for you, too. To learn more about what we can do to help you, please don’t put off contacting or calling us at 604-542-9455 today.

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