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Can your employer force you to relocate?

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a profound impact on tens of thousands of workplaces across Canada.

Employees have been hit hard by changes that include reductions in pay or commission, ongoing temporary layoffs, and permanent terminations of employment.

Some companies, in an effort to reduce their overall footprint and cut down on overhead costs, have chosen to shutter certain offices and relocate those employees to a new location. Energy company Suncor has announced that they plan on moving head office staff from two Ontario offices to Calgary, which could affect more than 700 workers.

Here are some of the most common questions my employment law firm receives from employees who are told to report to a new work location.

Can my employer force me to relocate to an office in a different city or province?

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No. Your employer can’t make you to move to a new office if it increases your commute time by a substantial amount, or forces you to uproot yourself or your family.

READ MORE: What to do if your employer cuts pay or reduces hours during COVID-19

Much like a cut in pay or change in work duties, relocation is a change to the terms of employment agreed upon by you and the company. You can treat the requested change in scenery as a constructive dismissal, contact the team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP for assistance and leave the company with full severance pay.

There are some situations that may permit an employer to switch office locations without breaching an employee’s rights. If you signed an employment contract, it may contain terms that give a company the express right to impose a relocation. A transfer may also be an implied practice for certain positions at a business, based on numerous factors.

READ MORE: What you need to know before you sign an employment contract

Whatever the case may be, it is extremely important that you contact my team as soon as you learn of your relocation so that we can determine what your options are.

 

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Can I be fired if I refuse to relocate or accept a transfer?

If you reject the company’s request for transfer, they can decide to fire you. Keep in mind that a business can legally fire an employee for any reason, provided that reason isn’t discriminatory and the proper amount of severance is provided.

If your employer does not have an express or implied right to transfer you to a new location, they can dismiss you without cause, as long as they give you a complete severance package.

Severance can be as much as 24 months’ pay, and is based on several factors, including age, position, salary, commission, benefits and years spent with the company. A wrongful dismissal occurs when a company fails to provide enough severance pay.

READ MORE: The 5 facts you need to read about severance pay

If your employer plans on moving you to a new location, contact my team immediately before taking any action. We have years of experience helping tens of thousands of employees determine their options, protect their rights and secure appropriate severance packages.


Does your employer want you to relocate or transfer to a new office? Have you been fired or dismissed from your job?

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Contact the firm or call 1-855-821-5900 to secure assistance from an employment lawyer in Ontario or British Columbia. Get the advice you need — and the compensation you deserve.

Lior Samfiru is an employment lawyer and partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, one of Canada’s leading law firms specializing in employment law and disability claims. He hosts Canada’s only Employment Law Show on TV and radio.