As Ontario employment lawyers, we are regularly asked questions relating to what can happen when changes are made to an employee’s job duties or responsibilities without the employee’s consent to those changes. From our experience, the employment law implications of changes being made to an employee’s job duties or responsibilities without their consent remain unclear to most companies and employees.
So, what is the answer here? Can an employer make changes to an employee’s job without their consent to those changes? The answer is that, generally speaking, an employer in Ontario cannot go about making significant changes to an employee’s job without the employee’s consent. This is because “constructive dismissal” would be triggered by the employer making those changes.
So, what exactly is constructive dismissal? In Ontario, constructive dismissal happens when the employer makes or intents on making a substantial or significant change to the employee’s terms of employment without that employee’s consent. It is important to note that these changes should be directed at key aspects of the employment relationship. Small or insignificant changes will not trigger constructive dismissal.
Now, the next question is what are examples of significant changes to an employee’s job? There are several common types of changes that can trigger constructive dismissal. Examples include:
- A reduction in pay which can include a reduction in salary, commissions or bonus pay owed to the employee.
- A reduction in an employee’s benefits.
- A substantial increase or decrease in the employee’s workload or hours of work.
- A demotion.
- A transfer to a new work location.
- Creating a toxic work environment which consist of bullying, harassment, or discrimination in the workplace aimed at the employee.
- Creating an unsafe work environment.
- An unlawful layoff.
- Unlawful suspensions, threats or other unjustified discipline against the employee.
The bottom line is that an employee does not have to accept these changes and they have recourse if their employer decides to make these changes without their consent. Employees should not wait too long before approaching an employment lawyer to assist them in making a claim for constructive dismissal. If an employee waits too long to claim constructive dismissal and continues their job, the employer may be able to argue that the employee has accepted and agreed to those changes.
An employee needs an employment lawyer to help them to maximize their claim for constructive dismissal. Once a claim for constructive dismissal has been made then the employee may be able to claim common law and statutory damages. Depending on the circumstances, the employee could also be entitled to punitive and general damages.
We cannot stress enough that where an employee has experienced constructive dismissal, they should contact one of our experienced employment lawyers today to discuss their options. Do not attempt to negotiate with the employer without a lawyer’s assistance.