Burger King’s failure to follow procedure in demoting employee changed terms of employment

Assistant manager was not given any warning or criticism before demotion
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

An assistant manager at a Burger King restaurant was a victim of constructive dismissal when her employer mishandled her demotion, the British Columbia Provincial Court has decided.

Chelsea Watson, 21, was an assistant manager of a Burger King in Duncan, B.C., when she was promoted to manager in July 2004. She began the new position with a three-month probationary period beginning Aug. 1, 2004. On Jan. 14, 2005, Watson was presented with a letter from the restaurant’s owner stating that after “seriously reviewing” her job performance, he was demoting her to assistant manager.

Watson did not work a shift after that but returned to the restaurant on Jan. 25, 2005, to find a copy of the employee handbook. While she was there, the owner called after having seen her on camera from his home computer. After an emotional conversation, Watson claimed he fired her. She told a supervisor and other staff she had been fired. Watson returned the next day to return her keys and swipe card to the supervisor but he told her she hadn’t been fired and should keep the card. Other employees also told her she hadn’t been fired. However, Watson continued to insist she had been and returned the card. The next day, after she failed to show up for a scheduled shift, another supervisor called her wondering why she wasn’t at work. The restaurant suspended Watson for two weeks without pay for her absence. This was followed by a one-month suspension on Feb. 14, 2005, when she didn’t return.