Calgary & Strathmore Constructive Dismissal Lawyers

Constructive dismissal is a form of wrongful dismissal that occurs when an employee’s employment changes so substantially that it essentially makes it impossible for the employee to stay at their job. It is sometimes colloquially referred to as “forced quitting”.

The skilled employment lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates provide robust advice and top-tier advocacy to employees who have suffered a constructive dismissal. We negotiate swift, fair resolutions and position clients for success at trial if matters proceed to litigation.

What Is Constructive Dismissal in Alberta?

 It typically occurs when an employer doesn’t directly fire the employee, but one of two scenarios happens:

  1. The employer changes the terms of the written or verbal employment contract without advance notice or without the employee’s consent; or
  2. The employee is forced to quit because of personal health and safety reasons.

The changes that constitute constructive dismissal must be substantial enough to alter the terms and conditions of the employment. For example:

  • A reduction in the employee’s pay, paid time off, paid leaves, health benefits, or retirement benefits;
  • Redefining the employee’s job description or responsibilities; or
  • Permanently changing work hours from a day shift to a night shift.

Alberta employment law considers minor changes normal and acceptable. Reasonable adjustments to an employer’s policy are well within the legal rights of the employers. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the corporation making these changes may very well have several legitimate reasons for having changed the policy and may not have been trying to provoke its employees to leave.

Can My Employer Change My Job Location, Hours, Or Pay Without Notice?

No. Your employer does not have a legal right to significantly change your employment without reasonable notice or without your consent.

What Is a Significant Change That May Constitute Constructive Dismissal?

Changes that may cause substantial problems for an employee or cause an employee to feel forced out of the position may be grounds for constructive dismissal. As mentioned above, a change in compensation, demotion, or drastic changes to your work hours are not acceptable.

If your employer gives you advance notice of changes to your employment or changes in company policy, it is not constructive dismissal.

What Happens If My Employer Changes My Employment?

If your employer changes your employment substantially, you have two options:

  1. Accept the changes, or
  2. Consider your employment terminated.

If you continue working after the employer makes the changes, you choose the first option by default. The court considers this consent to the changes. In this case, you may lose some of your rights if you decide to claim constructive dismissal later.

That said, it’s best not to quit your job immediately. A better course of action is to seek legal counsel when you learn of your employer’s changes to ensure you proceed appropriately and protect your legal rights.

If your situation qualifies as a constructive dismissal, you may consider your employment terminated. Your employer is then obligated to provide you with adequate notice of the changes or termination pay.

What If I Suspect I Have Been Constructively Dismissed?

Constructive dismissal can be complex and is open to a high degree of interpretation by Alberta courts. Never assume your case is a confirmed constructive dismissal before consulting with an employment lawyer.

If you choose to file a constructive dismissal claim in court, the burden of proof rests on you, the employee, to demonstrate that the changes to your employment were substantial enough to constitute constructive dismissal.

In Alberta, the courts look at three factors to determine if constructive dismissal has occurred:

  1. The employee must prove the terms of the employment contract. This is easy with a written contract, but understandably difficult with a verbal contract or an implied term;
  2. The employee must prove that a breach of the employment contract has occurred; and
  3. The employee must prove that the breach of the employment contract was substantial.

If the court rules in your favor, you may receive damages. This could include the minimum termination pay you’re entitled to according to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and, depending on the situation, other damages (such as punitive damages).

Contact Getz Collins and Associates in Calgary & Strathmore for Skilled Advocacy in Constructive Dismissal Cases

Hiring someone to help you with your employment law needs can seem costly while dealing with a potential constructive dismissal. However, an experienced employment lawyer can ensure your rights are protected and can best position your case for success in negotiations and at trial, if necessary.

As a cornerstone of the Alberta legal landscape, Getz Collins and Associates maintains an unyielding commitment to providing employees with exceptional client service and advocacy. Combining big-firm professionalism with a community focus, our skilled employment lawyers represent clients in CalgaryStrathmore and across Alberta, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, Hussar, and all surrounding areas. To schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable employment lawyer, please contact us online or call 587-391-5600.