In today’s challenging economic climate change is constant. Businesses are forever expanding, reorganizing, and downsizing. Frequently those who experience the most change are the employees of those businesses. At times change can be good for an employee and may mean a promotion, salary increase, or more responsibility. But often it is not. As an employment lawyer, I regularly speak with employees who must deal with a demotion, pay reduction, transfer to a faraway location, or some other form of fundamental change to their job.

When faced with such changes, employees often feel that they have no choice but to accept the change. That is completely wrong. An employee faced with a significant change to the terms of employment may entitled to a clean resignation and demand their full severance.

Constructive Dismissals Vs. Resignations

A constructive dismissal happens when you choose not to accept a fundamental change to the terms of your employment. Frequently, individuals believe that if they make a decision to leave their employment then they are not entitled to severance or that the decision would somehow impact the amount of severance they are owed. This is incorrect. If you leave your job because the change your employer has mandated is too substantial then you have been wrongfully dismissed and are entitled to full compensation.

A common example of constructive dismissal I encounter would be an employer requiring an individual to work on a different shift. Often such changes impact childcare, religious, or other important obligations. If the changes required are not possible or cause substantial hardships then the employee has been terminated and is owed severance.

This is despite the fact that the employer has not formally dismissed that person. Too often I speak with individuals who have been relocated, demoted, laid off, or forced to take a pay reduction and feel that they must accept that change required by their employer. This is completely false. You have a right to a fair and stable work environment and are not required to accept any changes which have a substantial impact on your personal or work life.


In the same way you do not have to accept changes that impact your personal life, you should also not accept a requirement to remain in a workplace where you are facing discrimination or a ‘poisoned’ work environment. Too frequently, individuals feel trapped working alongside others who harass or otherwise make them feel uncomfortable at work.

If your employer is unable to correct the situation it is your right to refuse employment. Discrimination, harassment, or loss of dignity should not be accepted in the workplace and can lead to constructive dismissal and the requirement to pay the employee compensation.

Common indicators that you have been constructively dismissed include:

  • Reduction or elimination of compensation such as salary, bonuses, commissions, benefits, or pension entitlements.
  • You have been temporarily laid off from your current position.
  • You have been transferred to another territory or geographic location.
  • You have been demoted, had your responsibilities reduced, or have been placed in a substantially different position.
  • You are required to work in a ‘poisoned’ environment.