Canada: How A Respectful Workplace Can Reduce The Risk Of A Successful Constructive Dismissal Claim

Labour, Employment and Human Rights Bulletin
Last Updated: May 2 2019
Article by Matthew Larsen

Generally, when employees decide to leave their jobs, they are considered to have resigned. But, if employees leave their jobs because the employer substantially changed essential terms of their employment contract, they are considered to have been constructively dismissed. One way an employer can constructively dismiss an employee is by permitting an abusive, intolerable work environment.

How can an employer properly address workplace conduct to minimize the risk of a constructive dismissal claim? This is the issue that was addressed by the BC Supreme Court in Baraty v. Wellons Canada Corp., 2019 BCSC 33.

What happened?

The claimant, was employed by Wellons Canada Corp. ("Wellons") as the head of the estimation department. The estimation department had only two employees, the Claimant and a subordinate.

The relationship between the Claimant and the subordinate was acrimonious – to put it mildly. Over time, the Claimant went to management, accusing the subordinate of doing outside work on company time, insubordination, physical intimidation, verbal abuse and harassment.

Wellons investigated the Claimant claims and found that many of the Claimant accusations were unfounded. The investigation concluded that in one incident the subordinate directed profanity towards the Claimant. Wellons disciplined the subordinate for the use of profanity.

The investigation also concluded both men were to blame for the poor working relationship. Wellons brought in a coach in an attempt to improve the working relationship between the Claimant and the subordinate. The relationship did not improve. the Claimant subsequently petitioned Wellons to terminate the subordinate for cause. Wellons refused.

A new General Manager explored the possibility of integrating the estimations and sales departments. On the basis of these discussions, the Claimant became convinced that a decision had been made to demote him. In fact, no final decision had been made regarding the integration of the departments. Further, integration would not have included a demotion of the Claimant or any change to his remuneration, title, or core responsibilities.

Frustrated by management's failure to discipline the subordinate and convinced that Wellons had decided to demote him, the Claimant resigned and sued for constructive dismissal.

Court's decision

There are two branches, or general categories, of constructive dismissal. First, a single unilateral act that breaches an essential term of the contract. Second, a series of acts that when taken together show the employer no longer intends to be bound by the contract. the Claimant claimed both branches applied. The court concluded there was no constructive dismissal on either branch.

A claim of constructive dismissal was premature because no decision had been reached to integrate estimations and sales. Further, integration would not have changed the Claimant remuneration, title and core responsibilities, and would not have resulted in a constructive dismissal of the Claimant.

There was no intolerable work environment which gave rise to constructive dismissal. The test for an intolerable work environment is a high one: whether a reasonable person in the circumstances should not be expected to persevere in the employment. An individual's subjective perception of the work environment will not be enough to establish constructive dismissal. Unfriendliness, confrontations between co-workers or even some hostility and conflict will not amount to constructive dismissal where the employee is still able to perform his or her work.

The court noted that this was not a case of repeated insulting behaviour, nor was such behaviour tolerated or condoned by management. The employer treated the complaint seriously. It disciplined the subordinate for using profanity and arranged for a career coach to assist the Claimant and the subordinate. The court concluded that the subordinate conduct did not reach the level where a reasonable person should not be expected to persevere in the employment.

Lessons for employers

This case not only offers a useful summary of the law on poisoned workplaces, but it also offers employers in all Canadian jurisdictions several practical suggestions on how to reduce the risk of a successful constructive dismissal claim:

  • Implement a respectful workplace policy. This may be required by legislation in some jurisdictions. It also shows a commitment to a respectful workplace and may help to defend against a constructive dismissal claim, such as that made by the Claimant.
  • Treat complaints seriously. If the employer receive complaints from an employee it is important to take the complaints seriously and investigate.
  • Take action where there is wrongdoing. If an investigation reveals that an employee has engaged in behaviour that creates a hostile work environment, take steps, including discipline, to make clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
  • Reaffirm the employer's commitment to a respectful workplace. When complaints arise, make clear to all affected parties that the employer desires to ensure a respectful workplace.
  • Exercise care when modifying conditions of employment. Employers do have, in certain circumstances, the managerial authority to modify conditions of employment. However, modifications must always be analyzed in their particular context in order to ensure that they do not trigger a constructive dismissal. It is prudent to obtain legal advice as to whether modifications substantially alter the essential terms of their employment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions