Is it Quiet Firing or Constructive Dismissal?

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Is it Quiet Firing or Constructive Dismissal?

In recent years, social media has rapidly evolved to provide its users with a seemingly never-ending amount of information. Occasionally, a particularly trendy topic reaches “viral” status and elevates to the forefront of our digital society. Such is the case for the phrase “quiet quitting”. Putting aside the diverging views on the concept of “quiet quitting”, the concept has clearly provoked a broader conversation about expectations in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, the dialogue in the digital sphere has now progressed to bring to light a more deceptive employment practice. “Quiet firing” is the name of this employment practice.

What Does This Mean?

If you are unsure about the meaning of “quiet firing”, you are not alone. As is the case with many catchy phrases and concepts on social media, the precise meaning is purposely broad. In general, “quiet firing” is when an employer strategically creates problematic work conditions and/or a workplace for an employee. As a result of the problematic changes, the employee has little to no choice but to resign.

While conduct that amounts to quiet firing is often intentionally subtle and difficult to classify, here are some common examples to look out for:

  • Unwarranted criticisms, micro-management and questioning of an employee’s conduct in the workplace.
  • A demotion in an employee’s role without a formal company announcement or amendment to the employment agreement. For example, a supervisor who had two teams of employees to supervise is now responsible for only a handful of employees.
  • Continually ignoring an employee for certain tasks, developmental opportunities or roles.
  • A meaningful reduction in an employee’s pay without an amendment to the employment agreement. For example, an employee no longer qualifies for a commission and discretionary bonus.
  • Ongoing refusal to provide feedback of job performance or expectations.
  • Changes in an employee’s responsibilities without amendment to the employment agreement. For example, an employee no longer has certain authorizations and access to resources to complete their work.
  • Direction to work remotely despite the employee’s wishes and a general return to the workplace for other similarly situated employees.

Why Might An Employer Decide To Quietly Fire An Employee?

A common reason is to avoid having to provide the employee their entitlement to a termination notice or severance pay. This would be a requirement of the employer under statute and the common law. It should come as no surprise that an employee who resigns from their employment is not able to receive any additional severance. What may surprise some, however, is the law has a solution readily available to protect an employee who encounters conduct that may be described as “quiet firing”. Long ago, the law of “constructive dismissal” began specifically to protect an employee from such conduct from their employer. Simply put, an employer who quietly fires an employee may actually be constructively dismissing that employee. When an employee is constructively dismissed (unlike when an employee resigns), the employer is generally required to provide that employee with severance.

Why Is There Suddenly So Much Interest And Concern About “Quiet Quitting” And “Quiet Firing”?

The pandemic has forced employers and employees to assess, consider and confront various aspects of the workplace. An important concern that is now more frequently discussed in the workplace is mental health.  The concepts of “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing” have a direct impact on the mental health of employees. Similarly, how an employer considers and responds to the mental health of its employees has a direct impact on its reputation, talent retention and productivity.

What should you do if you think your employer is trying to quietly fire (and possibly constructively dismiss) you? You should keep notes of what is happening to you at the workplace and immediately consult with an employment lawyer.

We Can Help!

If you have questions about the specifics of your employment or would like further information about employment law matters, please contact Vik Mall at (403) 398-1873 or [email protected]. In addition you may also contact our office at (403)225-8810 and they can connect you with a lawyer to assist with the matter.

This article is an overview of employment law and is for informational purposes only. Readers are cautioned that this article does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Rather, readers should obtain specific legal advice in relation to the issues they are facing.