Canada: BC Supreme Court Denies Workplace Poisoning Claim For Constructive Dismissal

An employer must ensure that an employee's work environment is not so hostile that work becomes impossible or continued employment intolerable.1 An employee may claim constructive dismissal where an employer breaches this responsibility, and if successful, may be awarded pay in lieu of termination notice and, possibly, aggravated and punitive damages.

In the recent decision Baraty v Wellons Canada Corp.,2 the BC Supreme Court (the "Court") declined to find constructive dismissal on the facts, and in doing so, clarified employers' responsibility to maintain work environments free from "workplace poisoning".

Legal Framework

The leading Supreme Court of Canada case on the topic, Potter v New Brunswick Legal Aid Commission,3 identifies two "branches" of constructive dismissal.  The first branch focuses on whether a unilateral act by an employer, such as a demotion, substantially alters an employment contract such that an employee is effectively constructively dismissed.4  The second branch asks whether the employer's course of conduct could lead a reasonable person to conclude that the employer no longer intended to be bound by the terms of the employment contract.  The claim of constructive dismissal in Baraty falls under the second branch – alleging the employer was permitting "workplace poisoning".


The employer in Baraty was Wellons Canada Corp. ("Wellons"), a manufacturer and supplier of wood and gas powered energy systems and related equipment.  The plaintiff, Reza Baraty ("Baraty") was, until June, 2017, employed by Wellons as a chief estimator, whose duties included preparing quotes for the sales department, assigning work, monitoring work flow, and scheduling vacations.  In addition, Baraty reviewed estimates performed by the only other estimator in his department, Cris Corilla ("Corilla"), who in turn checked Baraty's work.

Baraty had a remarkably difficult relationship with Corilla.  The two primarily communicated by email, even though their work stations were physically proximate.  Their communications were often curt and terse, with an unfriendly tone.  On one occasion, Corilla publicly swore at Baraty and made inappropriate comments, which resulted in Wellons issuing Corilla a verbal warning for violating Wellons' harassment policy.  Baraty twice requested that Corilla be suspended or terminated because of his alleged disrespect, mistreatment, and insubordination.  Wellons denied both requests.

In June 2017, Baraty claimed constructive dismissal under both branches of the Potter test.  Under the first branch, he argued that Wellons eroded his position as chief estimator and head of the estimating department to the point where his position and the department no, in effect, longer existed.  Under the second branch, he claimed that Wellons' failure to deal with Corilla's harassment and bullying rendered the work environment intolerable.


The Court dismissed Baraty's claim under both branches of the Potter test.  In addressing the demotion claim, the Court found that Baraty's role as chief estimator was neither eliminated nor fundamentally changed.5  In addressing the "workplace poisoning" claim, the Court reiterated three important principles:

1. Some degree of conflict in the workplace is expected.

Disagreements between coworkers, especially ones who work closely, are inevitable.  In this case, Baraty and Corilla had to review each other's work, which naturally led to criticism and conflicting opinions.  However, Wilson J. concluded: "the mere fact that there were disagreements between the two does not render the workplace to be intolerable."6  The Court clarified that while the onus is on the employer to maintain a work atmosphere that is conducive to the well-being of its employees, that duty does not require the employer to eliminate conflict altogether.

2. Contribution to conflict can detract from a constructive dismissal claim.

Baraty claimed that he was unable to perform the functions of his job because Corilla was bullying and harassing him, and Wellons acquiesced to such behaviour.  The Court rejected this argument, noting Baraty's contribution to the conflict between himself and Corilla.  The Court noted, in particular, Baraty's frequent use of a condescending tone and his propensity for ending disagreements in written correspondence by reaffirming his supervisory role over Corilla.  These factors led the Court to find that "each contributed to the dysfunctional relationship" and "viewed objectively, there was no harassment and bullying."7

Notably, Court inferred from Baraty's assertion of authority that he contributed to the conflict between him and Corilla.  Where a lower-ranking employee alleges workplace poisoning, it remains to be seen what actions may constitute contribution if the employee is in a power imbalance with the antagonist, since they lack the same power from which a similar contribution to conflict could be inferred.

3. There is no constructive dismissal if the employee objectively can continue working.

The Court affirmed that the test for rendering a workplace intolerable is a high, objective one.  A court must determine "whether the abusive treatment of the employee is so obscene as to amount to repudiation of the employment contract" and "whether a reasonable person in the circumstances should not be expected to persevere in the employment."8  Wilson J. found that while the work environment in the estimation department was strained, it had not deteriorated to a point that barred Baraty from performing his job.9 As such, Baraty was unable to claim constructive dismissal.


An employer's responsibility to ensure that a work environment is not so intolerable that it becomes impossible for employees to perform competent work is not without limit.  Some level of disagreement is expected in the workplace, and an employer's duty is discharged where a reasonable person can be expected to continue working despite such conflicts.


1 Stamos v Annuity Research & Marketing Service Ltd., 2002 O.J. No. 1865.

2 2019 BCSC 33 Baraty.

3 2015 SCC 10 Potter.

4 See e.g. Younger v Canadian National Railway Company, 2014 BCSC 1258.

5 Baraty at para. 80.

6 Ibid. at para. 138.

7 Ibid. at para. 121.

8 Ibid at para. 132, citing Danielisz v Hercules Forwarding Inc., 2012 BCSC 1155 at paras. 81 and 84-85.

9 Baraty at para. 148.

To view the original article click here

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