“Quiet Firing” and What it Means For Employees
Recently, the media have begun talking about “quiet firing.” Sound familiar? Well, the term sounds a lot like “quiet quitting.” “Quiet quitting” is a recently coined term used to describe employees who put in no extra hours or effort beyond what’s required by their employer.
What do people mean by “quiet firing?” It’s basically when an employer looks to end an employment relationship by manipulating the employee into resigning. Employers can do this by letting the employee know they’re not welcome – or just making their work lives miserable. Quiet firing can look like anything from getting passed over for promotion, getting micromanaged, or even having duties or workplace prestige taken away.
While the term might be new, employers doing this sort of thing is not.
What does the law say about “quiet firing,” and what are an employee’s legal options?
Well, first off, if your employer is trying to get you to quit in any way that’s related to a prohibited ground under human rights legislation – such as disability, age, race, sex, or sexual orientation – then that’s illegal and you should see a lawyer right away.
Otherwise, if things get bad enough, you might be able to sue your employer for constructive dismissal. What’s constructive dismissal? Well, to make out a successful case you basically have to show that your employer breached a fundamental term of the employment contract. If you can do this, then you’re going to be owed notice or severance just as though your employer had ended the employment relationship “without cause,” e.g. laid you off due to lack of work. Having to endure a toxic workplace can amount to constructive dismissal; so could having a number of your duties or reports removed, or getting your paycheque cut significantly. We explain constructive dismissal in more detail here.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace is illegal. If you think your employer is trying to get you to leave by intimidating you or humiliating you at work, and you’ve already raised the issue yourself with your employer, then one option is to call the agency that enforces workers’ occupational health and safety laws. In BC, you’d go to WorkSafeBC. Going this route can be risky. If you call anonymously, your employer will likely know it was you who contacted the authorities. The questions the investigators will be asking, after all, will likely revolve around you in some way. However, if your employer retaliates against you for raising a safety concern, you have a remedy there, too – which we talk about in this blog.
You should also know that, in BC and other jurisdictions, there’s an exception to bullying and harassment if the alleged bullying and harassment are seen as reasonable action to manage or direct workers. In the vast majority of cases, WorkSafeBC will not find there is bullying and harassment if your allegations of bullying and harassment are based on your employer’s review of your performance or criticism of your work. However, if your employer is talking to you in a way that’s humiliating or threatening or embarrassing, then that could be another story.
Lastly, at least in BC, WorkSafeBC investigators are going to be mostly concerned with whether there’s a proper bullying and harassment policy in place and whether an investigation on the part of the employer took place – not whether the right finding was made by an investigator. If there’s a solid policy in place and the employer went through an investigation in good faith and documented the findings, then that will usually be as far as the investigator will go. Of course, you could get compensation if you’ve suffered a mental disorder as a result of the bullying and harassment, but that is a whole other issue (which we address here).
If you’re being mistreated at work, and are looking for an objective assessment and possible legal options, reach out to an employment and labour lawyer. Lawyers can give you practical advice on how to handle the situation and what your legal options might be.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.
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