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Each of these terms have distinct meanings, and it is important to understand the differences. Here, we provide an overview of the terminology and the circumstances in which they apply.

Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal” is the general term used to describe any situation where an employer has explicitly terminated the employment of one or more of its workers without providing that worker with her or his entitlements under the law. These entitlements include reasonable notice or pay in lieu, and in some cases, severance pay.

Wrongful dismissal can also refer to improper conduct on the part of the employer in the manner of dismissal.  This can relate to a range of matters, including:

  • Failing to provide sufficient notice of termination to an employee (or pay in lieu thereof)
  • Harassment of the employee in the termination of employment
  • Denying wages to an employee
  • Refusal to assist an employee with transitioning to alternate employment
  • General other bad faith conduct on the part of the employer

Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal” refers to a situation in which an employer has not intentionally terminated an employee’s employment, however, the employer acts in such a way as to negate the employment contract or create an untenable working situation for the employee. An example of constructive dismissal would be if an employer changed the function of an employee’s job completely and cut back on their wages by 50%. Another example would be an employer who was aware of harassment against an employee yet took no action to intervene, therefore creating a hostile work environment for the employee, forcing them to quit.

Unjust Dismissal

The term “unjust dismissal” legally refers to a specific recourse in the Canada Labour Code that is available only to employees of federally regulated workplaces who have completed at least 12 consecutive months of continuous employment with the same employer and who believe their dismissal to be unwarranted. Some examples of federally regulated industries are telecommunications, transportation, and banking.

The Canada Labour Code provides eligible federal workers with a number of remedies for unjust dismissal, including reinstatement to their position and payment of back wages. These workers have additional protection from unjust dismissal by their employer after 12 months of service in the following circumstances:

  • The employee files a complaint alleging unjust dismissal at a Labour Program office no later than 90 days from the date of the dismissal;
  • The employee is not a manager;
  • The employee is not covered by a collective agreement; and
  • The reason for the dismissal does not stem from economic considerations such as lack of work or discontinuance of a function.

If you are unsure whether you have been “wrongfully dismissed”, “constructively dismissed” or “unjustly dismissed” and are seeking legal advice, please contact Toronto employment lawyers, Sultan Lawyers at 416-214-5111 or via email to mlahert@sultanlawyers.com.

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