A Question of Law Employment contract may not be transferred

In Manitoba case, management change should have had employee consent.
By Jeffrey Miller
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

A free citizen, in the exercise of his freedom, is entitled to choose the employer whom he promises to serve, so that the right to his services cannot be transferred from one employer to another without his assent.” This is more than your wise thought for the day. It comes from a 1940 English judgment quoted in June 2000 by Manitoba’s highest court. And it serves as a reminder that, although employers may feel they’re doing employees a favour by automatically transferring employment contracts when the business changes hands, well, they’d better ask the employees first.

All told, Rose Bodnarus worked as a nurse-receptionist for physicians Roman Buchok and Zenon Matwichuk for 32 years. She started off employed by the doctors personally, but after the first six years, the doctors transferred her employment contract to their management company.

About 21 years later, their accountant told them to start paying Bodnarus personally again. After about four years of that procedure, they sold their management company, becoming employees, themselves, of the new owners. A term of the sale was that Bodnarus was also deemed to be an employee of the new company. The new company cut back on Bodnarus’s hours, so she claimed constructive dismissal and left, suing Buchok and Matwichuk, her original employers.