Action for Constructive Dismissal Unsuccessful Where the Employee Helped Create the Hostile Workplace

November 1, 2013

The British Columbia Supreme Court expressed disapproval of a claim for constructive dismissal on the basis of negative treatment where the plaintiff was an active participant in the creation of the toxic work environment. In Danielisz v. Hercules Forwarding Inc., 2012 BCSC 155, a former employee claimed that she was unfairly picked on and ostracized by other staff. She alleged that this caused her to require a medical leave due to stress, and led to her constructive dismissal.

The Court affirmed the principle that in order for negative behaviour toward an employee to constitute constructive dismissal, it had to be such as to render continued employment beyond what an employee was reasonably expected to bear. The Court unequivocally held that the plaintiff had not met this standard. It found that although the working environment was “unpleasant”, she had made no efforts to improve it before alleging constructive dismissal. Moreover, she had “engaged in ‘poisoning the working environment’ as much as she was ‘the targeted employee’”. (para 90)
The plaintiff, a supervisor in a small office, was rude to other employees and mocked her co-workers behind their backs. Further, the plaintiff participated in, and sometimes initiated, communications that were designed to increase the dissension and conflict in the workplace. The Court found that although other employees contributed to the hostile environment, it was the plaintiff who set the tone for the office.
The Court emphasized that “not every workplace blow-up automatically results in a poisoning of the working environment or in the constructive dismissal of the targeted employee.” (para 89) The circumstances in this case were not sufficient to justify constructive dismissal, and the employer had not breached a fundamental term of the employment relationship. Further, the Court held that although the employer had clearly evinced an intention to maintain the employment relationship, the plaintiff had no genuine intention to return to work. Therefore, it concluded that she had resigned from her position.
This case indicates that there is a high threshold for constructive dismissal on the basis of negative treatment. The decision suggests that courts will not allow actions for constructive dismissal merely because the working environment is unpleasant. Rather, the employee must be able to show that the treatment is so obscene as to amount to repudiation of the employment contract, and that no reasonable person would be expected to persevere in the environment.

Related Services

Employment & Labour

Related Articles

Up Close and Personal…Guarantees

Securing bank financing could very well be the springboard to take your business to the next exciting level. A personal guarantee may be a condition of that financing, but don’t be scared off. Knowledge and experienced guidance can help you work with the lender to take the business successfully forward.

read more

Parties, Cocktails & Cannabis – the Triple Threat for Host Liability

This is the first holiday season in the post-legalization of cannabis era. If, as an employer, you are planning a holiday gathering, you should be aware that you may be exposing your company to significant financial liability for the actions of an impaired guest. The concept of host liability is not new, but with the […]

read more

Deducting Collateral Benefits From Loss of Income Claims

On Tuesday, November 20, a panel of Cox & Palmer insurance lawyers from across the region presented our Advance 2018 Insurance Law Webinar, which covered the latest on the Common law and Legislative law approaches to deductibility related to loss of income claims. As part of the webinar materials, we prepared a paper and a handout, which we have linked below for your reference. We have also provided a link to the full webinar, which you can view and listen to at your convenience.

read more
view all
Cox & Palmer publications are intended to provide information of a general nature only and not legal advice. The information presented is current to the date of publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.