Legal Word of the Day: “Constructive Dismissal”



Constructive Dismissal — In employment, a constructive dismissal occurs where an employer makes a unilateral, fundamental change to a term or condition of employment, or the workplace becomes intolerable, causing the employee to believe the employer will not fulfill the terms of the employment contract.

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, to meet an objective standard. Elements of constructive dismissal include:

  • Changes implemented unilaterally by the employer
  • Changes made to fundamental terms of the employment agreement
  • Changes were substantial and disadvantageous to the employee
  • Employee did not condone or acquiesce in the changes

An employee may be constructively dismissed if the employer changes the terms and conditions of employment, including a salary cut, changed work location, hours of work, authority, or position. Constructive dismissal may also include situations where an employer harasses or abuses an employee, or gives an employee an ultimatum to “quit or be fired.”

Related Cases:

General Motors of Canada Limited v. Johnson, 2013 ONCA 502 (CanLII)

Farber v. Royal Trust Co., [1997] 1 S.C.R. 846

Brunswick News Inc. v. Sears, 2012 CanLII 42254


Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41

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