Step 1. Get legal advice
If you feel your employer is making significant changes to your job that you don’t accept, it’s a good idea to get legal advice right away. You may have the same rights as someone who’s fired without cause — including the right to notice or severance pay. Then again, you may not. Every situation is different, and it can be difficult to prove a claim for constructive dismissal.
The quicker you act, the better. So long as you continue to work, your employer can claim you agreed, by your behavior, to the changes — unless you speak up to make sure they know you don’t agree to the changes.
A legal professional will be able to tell you what your options are, and how much you might be able to claim if you do leave your job. If you don’t have access to a lawyer, there are options for free or low-cost legal help.
Step 2. Gather your evidence
Some types of documents can help you make your case that your employer is constructively dismissing you from your job. These include:
- your employment contract or job description
- any letters or emails between you and your employer about what you agreed to when you started the job
- letters, memos or emails from your employer discussing changes to your job or your working conditions
- pay stubs
- records of the hours you worked
It helps to keep notes about things that happen at work. For example, say your employer calls you into her office. She tells you your job title is changing from “supervisor” to “sales representative.” And your salary is being drastically cut. Writing down the details of a meeting like this can be very useful if you decide to bring a claim.
Step 3. Decide to quit or continue to work
Before long, you need to make a decision one way or the other. If you keep working, you may weaken your claim you were constructively dismissed from your job. However, if your employer is abusing or harassing you, you may still be able to claim constructive dismissal even if you stay. It all depends on the facts of your specific case.
Step 4. Consider your legal options
Depending on the situation, you might consider more formal options for taking action.
Bringing a legal action against your employer
One option is to sue your employer for constructive dismissal. If your lawsuit is for less than $35,000, you can sue in Small Claims Court. It’s faster and less complicated than suing in the BC Supreme Court. If your claim is for less than $5,000, it will go before the Civil Resolution Tribunal. This online tribunal encourages a collaborative approach to resolving disputes.
Making an employment standards complaint
If you’re covered by the Employment Standards Act (see who’s covered) and you think your employer has breached this law, you can make a complaint to the government office that administers the Act.
For the steps to make a complaint, see our guidance on making an employment standards complaint.
Either way, note the time limits for taking action
There are time limits for making a complaint or starting legal action. You must start a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch within six months of your last day of work. The time limit to sue in the courts is two years. There may be steps you can take to extend the time limit and preserve your rights. A lawyer can explain your options, and help you decide on the best course of action.
It is important to get legal advice at this point. Once you have started on one of these paths, you may be legally prevented from using the other process. It is also important to understand which option is best suited for your particular problem. If you don’t have a lawyer, there are options for free or low-cost legal help.
Step 5. Apply for employment insurance
If you decide to quit, you might be eligible to receive employment insurance (EI) benefits. (You will have to show you had a good reason to quit.) You should apply right away, as there are time limits for applying once you’ve left your job. See our guidance on applying for EI.