Constructive Dismissal: Recognizing Unfair Termination Through Job Changes


Constructive dismissal is a complex area of employment law where an employee resigns due to the employer making significant, unilateral changes to the terms of employment. Recognizing and addressing constructive dismissal is crucial to protecting your career and legal rights. At Workplace Sage Legal, we guide you through these turbulent situations with compassion and legal expertise.

Understanding Constructive Dismissal


  • Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer makes a significant change to a fundamental term or condition of an employee’s job without the employee’s consent, leading the employee to resign. This can often feel like being forced out without a formal termination.

Common Examples:

  • Significant compensation reductions.
  • Demotion or reduction in job responsibilities.
  • Relocation to a substantially different geographical location.
  • Drastic changes in working hours or conditions.

Legal Framework:

  • In Ontario, the concept of constructive dismissal is recognized both under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and in common law. Employees subjected to such dismissive changes may be considered legally terminated and entitled to severance and other termination benefits.

Identifying Signs of Constructive Dismissal

Recognizing the signs of constructive dismissal is the first step in addressing it:

  • Substantial Changes: Any major change that alters the core aspects of your employment contract.
  • Lack of Consent: These changes are made without your agreement or sufficient notice.
  • Employer’s Intent: Sometimes, the changes might seem intended to force you to resign.

Steps to Address Constructive Dismissal

If you believe you are facing a constructive dismissal, take these steps carefully:

  • Document Changes and Communications:
    Keep a detailed record of all changes made and any communications with your employer about these changes
  • Seek Legal Advice:
    Consult with an employment lawyer to understand your rights and the strength of your case.
  • Communicate with Your Employer:
    Discuss your concerns and the impact of the changes with your employer. Sometimes, an amicable agreement can be reached without further dispute.
  • Consider Your Options:
    Depending on the advice from your legal counsel, you may choose to stay under the new terms while reserving your rights, resign and claim constructive dismissal, or negotiate an exit package.

Legal Remedies and Claims

If resignation and a legal claim are the chosen paths, you may be entitled to:

  • Compensation for notice period as if you were terminated.
  • Severance pay if applicable.
  • Damages for breach of contract or emotional distress.

Case Study:

Example: An employee was suddenly told their office would be relocated from Toronto to a location two hours away. With no prior consultation or offer of relocation assistance, the employee faced severe commuting challenges. Legal intervention clarified that this constituted a constructive dismissal, leading to a negotiated settlement that compensated for the abrupt changes.


Understanding and effectively managing the risks of constructive dismissal are key to maintaining your professional and financial stability. If you encounter significant, unapproved changes in your employment, it’s crucial to act strategically and seek professional advice. At Workplace Sage Legal, we prioritize your well-being and legal rights, guiding you through each step of this challenging process. Remember, recognizing the signs early and seeking expert guidance can make all the difference in successfully resolving issues of constructive dismissal.

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