COLUMN: Forced resignation can be compensated

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Editor’s Note: Employment Matters is a new column for The Voice from local lawyer Ilija Dimeski.

Have you ever felt like you had no choice but to quit your job? Forced to leave because of mistreatment from your boss or another colleague?

You are not alone. Workers (employees) who have faced severe forms of mistreatment in the workplace have resigned in order to put an immediate stop to the mistreatment. The question is, are they entitled to any compensation for doing so?

Resigning from your job

Typically when a worker voluntarily and out of their own freewill resigns from their employment, they are not entitled to termination pay or severance. This is different from workers who were let go by the company. In those situations, the company may have to pay termination and/or severance money if it did not have a good reason to terminate the employment of the worker. 

Unfortunately, some employers may try to use resignations to their advantage so that they do not have to pay the worker. 

Fortunately, the courts and the law have provided protection and compensated workers in situations where they have been forced to resign due to mistreatment. Whether it is mistreatment due to personal characteristics, health and safety, or just general mistreatment, courts have awarded compensation if the worker had resigned as a result of mistreatment. Here are a few real examples in which workers have been successful even though they resigned.

  • Resignation due to human rights mistreatment

Disability: A worker who resigned after the employer refused to properly accommodate their disability was compensated for lost wages and $15,000 in tax-free monetary compensation. 

  • Resignation due to health and safety mistreatment

Bullying and harassment: A worker resigned after being subjected to harassment. This worker was awarded termination pay by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (“the Labour Board”). Note, however, that judges have found unpleasantness, rudeness or misunderstanding of the facts on the part of the employer do not necessarily create a poisoned work environment. 

Unsafe work: One worker had refused to perform work that she believed was unsafe and was told “these are the conditions under which you work, take it or leave it.” The Labour Board found this constituted punishment and found the worker was forced to quit when she refused unsafe work. She was awarded lost wages. 

  • Resignation due to other mistreatment

Reduced hours – A worker resigned after the employer reduced his hours of work from 40 hours to 16 hours per week. The Board awarded him termination pay and vacation pay. Interestingly, an increase of working hours has also been accepted as a situation deserving of termination pay if the worker resigns as a result of increased hours of work.

Reduced pay – A worker resigned after his pay was cut by 25 per cent and was awarded termination pay by the court.

Delayed pay – A worker resigned after the employer failed to pay her wages on time for several pay periods, the Labour Board awarded her termination pay and vacation pay as compensation.

Demotion – A worker who resigned after being demoted and stripped of their managerial responsibilities was awarded termination pay and vacation pay by the Labour Board. Note that a demotion can also be found even when there is no change in title but a change in duties, responsibilities or even prestige among colleagues. This could be enough to lead to compensation, even if there were a legitimate business justification for the demotion, such as company restructuring. 

Change in working hours – A worker resigned from their employment after the company made them work from a day shift to a night shift. The worker was awarded termination pay. 

Change in location – A worker who typically had a 20 minute commute to work from home was relocated to a different location which now involved a 1 hour commute. The worker was awarded termination pay when she resigned as a result of the change in work location.  

Illegal acts – A worker had resigned after being asked to carry out an illegal act in the workplace, such as when the company asked them to make an improper deduction on the pay cheque. The court found they were forced to resign and as such awarded termination pay.  

Concluding Thoughts

The above examples are some common situations in which workers have been successful in receiving compensation for being forced to resign due to mistreatment at work. It is important to note that each case is assessed on its own facts and it does not mean that a person will automatically be successful if they find themselves in a similar situation. But should you find yourself in such a situation, there are avenues worth exploring for compensation purposes.

The content in this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind.

  • Ilija Dimeski is an employment and human rights lawyer. Do you have a workplace issue or question about your rights at work? Write to us. Click here to begin.

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