Employment Law

Can employers in Alberta change a worker’s job description?

A photo of a worker with her hand over her face. (Photo: Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock)

The short answer is no. Employers in Alberta can’t make significant changes to a non-unionized worker’s job description or duties without their consent.

When major modifications are made to the terms of your employment without your approval, the law allows you to resign and seek full severance pay through a constructive dismissal claim.

However, you shouldn’t quit your job before speaking to an experienced Alberta employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

We can confirm that you have been constructively dismissed, assess your legal options, and help you secure the compensation you deserve.

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My employment contract says my boss can change my job description, is that legal?

Employment contracts in Alberta can contain a clause that allows employers to modify a non-unionized worker’s job description or duties.

If you signed an agreement that includes this type of clause, it’s very likely that your boss has the right to make these changes.

My employer is pressuring me to sign a new employment contract, what should I do?

If the employment contract you initially signed doesn’t give your employer permission to modify your job description, you might be asked to accept a new agreement that does give the company the ability to make changes.

In the event that you are provided with a new employment contract, don’t sign anything before seeking legal counsel. Your boss can’t legally force you to accept it immediately or a few days after receiving it.

In most cases, these agreements take away key protections that would otherwise be available to non-unionized employees in Alberta.

Our experienced employment lawyers can review the contract and ensure that your workplace rights are properly protected.

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Validating a new agreement

In Canada, employers must provide non-unionized workers with an additional “benefit” in order to validate a new employment contract.

Potential benefits could include:

  • A promotion
  • Extra vacation days
  • More flexibility working remotely

If your company didn’t include an additional benefit in the new agreement, or you aren’t sure that one has been provided, don’t sign anything before contacting Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

What should I do if I don’t want my employer to change my job description?

Unless your employment contract gives your employer permission to modify your job description, your boss can’t legally force you to accept potential changes without your consent.

If you don’t approve of the adjustments that the company wants to make to your role, notify your employer in a letter, email, or text message as soon as possible.

Timing is crucial. If you wait too long to object to the change, or continue working after your job description has been altered, your boss could argue that you have accepted the new terms of employment.

By immediately rejecting the modification in writing, the company won’t be able to claim that you were fine with it.

If you refused significant adjustments to your job, and your employer went ahead with them anyway, contact an experienced Alberta employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

We can review your situation and help you secure full severance pay through a constructive dismissal claim.

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Can my employer punish me if I object to my job description being changed?

In Alberta, employers can’t punish or threaten to punish non-unionized workers for asserting their workplace rights.

  • Example: Your boss wants to make significant adjustments to your job description, but your employment contract doesn’t give the company the right to do so. You clearly state in an email to your employer that you don’t consent to the proposed changes. The company can’t demote you, cut your pay, or force you to relocate to another office as punishment. These types of modifications are illegal in the province.

If your boss disciplines you or threatens to discipline you for asserting your rights, that is a reprisal and you should contact Samfiru Tumarkin LLP immediately.

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My boss is pressuring me to quit after refusing a job description change, what should I do?

No matter how disappointed your employer is that you won’t let the company modify your job description, they can’t pressure or force you to resign.

If your boss is influencing you to step down after objecting to the change, document their attempts. Keep any letters, emails, or text messages that show how the company is pressuring you to quit.

In some cases, the pressure from management can be so extreme that staff don’t feel they have any other option than to resign.

If you are ultimately forced to quit your job for any reason, speak with an experienced Alberta employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

In addition to a severance package, you could be owed compensation for any damages associated with the end of your employment.

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Can my employer fire me for refusing a change to my job description?

Your employer can fire you if you refuse to let the company modify your job description.

This is called a termination without cause. Non-unionized employees in Alberta can be let go for any reason, as long as:

However, it’s very unlikely that your employer would be able to fire you for cause in this situation, which would mean no severance package or access to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

This type of dismissal is reserved for the worst kinds of workplace offences, such as serious insubordination, theft, or assault.

To justify terminating you for cause, the company must prove progressive disciplinary measures were applied and that a lesser punishment wouldn’t be suitable, which is very difficult to do.

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Lost your job? Speak with an employment lawyer

If you are fired or let go after refusing a change to your job description, or for any reason, contact the experienced employment law team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

Our lawyers in Alberta, B.C., and Ontario have helped tens of thousands of non-unionized individuals resolve their workplace issues.

We can review your situation, enforce your rights, and ensure that you receive the compensation you are owed.

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