Sometimes it's better to look for new employment

QUESTION: I have been working at a small business for 8 months. When I was hired as a receptionist I was promised that I would receive a raise. Not only have I not received a raise, my boss is one of the most ignorant human beings I have ever met. He is rude, arrogant and dismissive. Even customers have noticed the way he talks to me is outrageous. If I quit I will not get Employment Insurance. If I quit after only 8 months, I will have to explain to future employers why it didn’t last. Any suggestions?
ANSWER: You are right that it will be difficult to get Employment Insurance if you quit, but you can try. I would start by making a list of every ignorant thing he has said to you and try to put a date and time on it. Perhaps for the next few weeks, keep a log of events that happen. No doubt when you quit he will write quit on your Employment Record. You should respond by giving them a long recitation of the humiliating way in which you were treated. I promise you nothing but at least you can try.
Unfortunately, severance is probably not in the cards. There are only about eight or nine cases in the history of the whole country where people have been able to claim that bullying in the workplace constituted a termination. This is called a constructive dismissal and if you can prove that your treatment was so outrageous that it was unbearable you might succeed. After eight months, however, at most you might be entitled to two weeks pay and it will not be worth hiring a lawyer to pursue. You could file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour for one week’s pay under the Employment Standards Act. It doesn’t cost anything and there is no harm in trying.
There is no really good answer with respect to what you tell potential employers. If they ask, I would not go into a long diatribe about what a monster your former boss was. I would simply state that your employer had no problems with your performance and never had any criticisms but you decided to leave because it was a very abusive work environment. That is the best you can do and you should leave it at that without going into a lot of details.
The very best advice I can give you is to start spending time looking for new employment. The very act of looking will relieve some of your stress. If you find new work to go to, you will not even have to worry about the Employment Insurance issue.
As published in The Hamilton Spectator, September 1, 2006.
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809