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Constructive Dismissal

How to Limit Exposure to Constructive Dismissal Claims

There are a number of things that can occur in an employment relationship that will give an employee a right to claim constructive dismissal. Successful constructive dismissal claims can be costly for companies, particularly in the case of employees who have long service with the company or who are in senior management or executive roles. 

There are a number of things that companies can do to reduce the risk of a successful constructive dismissal claim.  The most common events giving rise to constructive dismissal claims are demotions or changes in duties; reductions in compensation; and hostile work environments.

Here are some suggestions for strategies that will reduce the likelihood of an employee succeeding with a constructive dismissal claim:

Demotion or Reduction in Duties

  • Make sure all offer letters and employment agreements contain language that expressly allows for changes to the employee’s roles and responsibilities
  • Give as much notice as possible before implementing a change
  • Whenever possible, consult with the employee about the proposed changes
  • Delay the implementation of any change in compensation that might come with the demotion
  • Attempt to ensure the new role includes meaningful responsibilities and makes appropriate use of the employee’s skills and experience

Decrease in Compensation

  • Make sure all offer letters and employment agreements allow for reductions in compensation
  • Give as much advance notice as possible before implementing the change
  • Keep decreases to less than 10% of total compensation
  • Spread any decrease out over time
  • Apply changes consistently across the entire workforce

Workplace Harassment

  • Implement a workplace harassment policy and enforce it consistently
  • Actively promote a respectful workplace culture
  • Provide employees with an anonymous, or at least confidential, way of making complaints
  • Conduct a meaningful investigation of any complaint with a scope that is appropriate to the circumstances

If you have questions or would like assistance, the Employment Law group at Carbert Waite LLP would be pleased to assist.

Sexual Harassment and Constructive Dismissal

On November 3, 2022, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal released its decision in HFX Broadcasting Inc v Cochrane. Cochrane had sued her former employer, HFX Broadcasting, for constructive dismissal. Cochrane alleged that over a period of several years, she had been subjected to a litany of repeated sexual harassment by her immediate supervisor and non-sexual harassment through ostracism 

Claiming Constructive Dismissal for Reduced Pay is Time-Sensitive

Author: Aviaah Randhawa In the recent decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal in Kosteckyj v Paramount Resources Ltd, 2022 ABCA 230, the Court says employees, and especially professional employees, have a short timeline to decide if they will accept a change in their compensation. The Court also sets out that if an employee claims […]

Update on the Law of Constructive Dismissal

On March 6, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada released its reasons for judgment in Potter v. New Brunswick (Legal Aid Services Commission), 2015 SCC 10. In it, the Court clarified the law on constructive dismissal for the first time since Farber v. Royal Trust Co., [1997] 1 S.C.R. 846.