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Municipal employee constructive dismissal: dismissed.

Robbins v Vancouver (City) 2014 BCSC 872

The plaintiff was employed by the defendant city from 1973 to 2011. In 1998 she was manager of the By-Law Administration Branch where her role involved by-law enforcement. In 2007, the plaintiff became the manager of the Property Use Inspection Branch. In transitioning to this new role, the plaintiff brought along some of her by-law enforcement duties to administer, even though it was not necessary to do so. In 2010 the defendant city undertook the restructuring of various departments. One of the results was that a leadership position earmarked for the plaintiff was to be eliminated. Moreover, the plaintiff was informed that her involvement in by-law enforcement might be eliminated. The plaintiff left her employment and sued for damages for constructive dismissal. In finding that the plaintiff was not constructively dismissed, the court ruled that:

  • the plaintiff was not demoted or offered a position with less stature or responsibility;
  • at her own discretion, the plaintiff took the by-law enforcement related tasks with her from her previous role, even though she was not expected to; and
  • the plaintiff acted precipitously by leaving her employment without waiting to see how the restructuring played out.

It could not be said that the defendant made unilateral changes to the employment contract so as to engage the doctrine of constructive dismissal. Notably, in the event the defendant was held liable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages by choosing to leave her employment, rather than continuing in her position while seeking alternative employment.

Case summary by: Aharon Ittah