In some cases, employers will attempt to force out an employee through “constructive dismissal.” If your employer changed your work duties without notifying you or obtaining your consent you may have been a victim of constructive dismissal.
An employment contract is a two-party agreement between employee and employer. Under labour law, any changes to the contract must have the consent of both parties. Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer changes a fundamental term in the employment contract without consent, and it can be demonstrated that this change would be “unreasonable, unfair and untenable” to the employee*.
Furthermore, in Alberta, labour laws protect employees from doing any work that would place them in harm’s way, or cause harm to others. An employee has the right to refuse work that jeopardizes theirs or others’ safety.
Examples of constructive dismissal
Many employees may feel powerless to prevent the constructive dismissal process. An employer may demand you take on different work duties and claim that if you want to continue working, you will comply. If you don’t know employee rights and protection under Alberta law, or aren’t familiar with the terms of your employment contract, you may not know whether new duties fit under your job description.
Often, employees experiencing constructive dismissal will feel as though they are being bullied out of their job or made to work in a hostile workplace. In fact, aggressive attempts by an employer to force out an employee may even amount to workplace harassment or bullying.
If any of the following has happened to you without your notification and/or consent, you may have a viable claim against your employer for constructive dismissal.
Leave on your own terms.
*Echlin Thomlinson. For Better or For Worse: A Practical Guide to Canadian Employment Law, 3rd ed. p168.