Haglund v. Clean Harbors Canada Inc. – British Columbia Supreme Court – November 29, 2007
An employee’s mere dislike of a change to their employment contract and an employer’s attempt to remedy the negative results of such a change may bar a Court from finding that an employee was constructively dismissed.
The decision that was made in the British Columbia Supreme Court case of Haglund v. Clean Harbors Canada, Inc.  B.C.J. No. 2555 (“Haglund“) on November 29, 2007 provides insight into the concept of constructive dismissal. Specifically, the decision states that an employee’s mere dislike of a unilateral change to their employment contract is not sufficient to support a claim of constructive dismissal and an employer’s attempt to resolve any negative outcomes from the change may bar a Court’s finding of such a claim.
During the first two quarters of 2004, the employee failed to meet her new budget. Consequently, the employee resigned from her employment and notified the employer that the changes that were made, along with the employer’s refusal to address the problem to her satisfaction, were a repudiation of her employment contract. The employee claimed that she had been constructively dismissed since the changes effectively removed her ability to achieve her bonus.
The Trial Judge found that the employee had not been constructively dismissed because the employer’s conduct did not constitute a fundamental breach of the employment contract. The Trial Judge stated, “I am not satisfied that the defendant demonstrated an intention not to be bound by the terms of the employment contract, nor am I satisfied that any changes made to the budget for the territories assigned constituted fundamental changes to the contract. In particular, I am not satisfied that the budget assigned to [the employee] for 2004 was unreasonable or unattainable.” Furthermore, the employer attempted to help the employee achieve her budget by both returning two significant accounts to her from her old sales territory and by offering quarterly reviews. According to the Trial Judge, these actions demonstrated the employer’s intention “to continue to be bound by its obligations to the [employee]…”
The ruling in Haglund identifies two important aspects to be considered before bringing a claim of constructive dismissal. First, an employee’s mere dislike of a change to their employment contract is not sufficient to support a claim of constructive dismissal. Nor is an employee’s dissatisfaction in regards to an employer’s attempt at remedying the situation. Rather, there must have been a fundamental breach of the employee’s contract by the employer in order for constructive dismissal to have occurred.
Secondly, the decision in Haglund indicates that an employer may not have constructively dismissed an employee if they have attempted to fix the negative outcomes that are caused by their unilateral changes to an employee’s employment contract. If the employer’s attempts at remedying these negative outcomes reflect the original terms that the employee and employer agreed to, then it may demonstrate to the Court that the employer intended to remain bound by the original employment contract, despite the alterations.
Haglund is a case where the employee worked for her employer as the sole sales representative until 2003 when a second sales representative was hired. As a result of this addition, the employee was reassigned to a new sales territory and given a higher budget to achieve in order to obtain her bonus outlined in her employment contract. The employee objected to the changes stating that the new territory did not have a history of service with the employer, thereby making her budget unattainable. In response to these complaints, the employer informed the employee that there would be quarterly reviews of the changes if things were “really skewed”.