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What if my work changes in a major way because of COVID-19?

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What if my work changes in a major way because of COVID-19?
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What if my work changes in a major way because of COVID-19?
Reviewed: 
September 4, 2020
Answer

On May 29, 2020, the government of Ontario changed the law so that during COVID-19, an employer can reduce an employee’s hours or wages without this being constructive dismissal. This change will last until January 3, 2021

This means you can’t make a claim to the Ministry of Labour because of constructive dismissal that happened during the COVID-19 outbreak.

You may still be able to sue your employer in court for constructive dismissal.

What’s constructive dismissal?

The law says that employment is a “contractual relationship”. So, if your employer changes the terms of the contract without you agreeing, you may be able to:

  • say that your employer broke the contract, and
  • sue them.

This is called constructive dismissal. It's like you've been fired.

A change in your working conditions has to be significant for it to count as constructive dismissal. Here are some changes that might mean your employer broke the contract:

  • lowering your pay
  • reducing your benefits
  • reducing the number of hours you work, including a temporary layoff, unless your employment contract says these things can happen
  • removing some of your job responsibilities or moving you to a position that has fewer responsibilities 

Usually, your employer will owe you pay in lieu of notice or termination pay if they let you go without notice. For some people, this can be a large amount.

What you can do

There are normally 2 ways that you can deal with or make a claim related to constructive dismissal. You can:

  1. Apply to the Ministry of Labour, where you would get the minimum standards set out in the Employment Standards Act
  2. Sue your employer in court based on common law. This means that the court decides about your claim by looking at similar decisions courts have made in the past.

The new regulation says that you can’t apply to the Ministry of Labour because of constructive dismissal that happened during the COVID-19 outbreak.

You may still be able to sue your employer in court. But it’s important to talk to a lawyer first. Starting a court case can be very complicated and cost a lot of time and money. And everyone’s situation will be different.

If you think you’ve been constructively dismissed, make sure to get legal help.

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