An employment lawyer’s take on quiet quitting

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

Quiet quitting is an interesting manifestation, particularly because remote work was touted as the wave of the future at the onset of the pandemic — cutting commute times and increasing happiness and work life balance.

Quiet quitting is more than a social media phenomenon — it signals that the worker revolution that started at the beginning of the pandemic has evolved.

 

According to a TikTok user, quiet quitting means, “You’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond” in your job; ignoring after work emails and performing your role within the confines of your job description only.

 

I have heard other definitions of the phenomenon, including doing less than the bare minimum, waiting for management to uncover the underperformance, then hoping for a generous termination package.

 

Quiet quitting is an interesting manifestation, particularly because remote work was touted as the wave of the future at the onset of the pandemic — cutting commute times and increasing happiness and work life balance.

 

The advent of quiet quitting signals remote work hasn’t increased satisfaction among workers on a broad scale. There are obvious factors that play into the quiet quitting construct.

 

Firstly, remote work has removed strong social interactions from the workplace, stripping away the meaning of employment. It’s easy to feel like a cog in the wheel when it doesn’t feel like your work offers some mutual benefit.

 

For many, the social fabric weaved over many years of employment shapes careers, gives purpose and adds joy to what can be a dreary existence. Many jobs are not glamorous, nor do they offer much occasion for innovation. Our friends at work can make it all worthwhile.

 

Remote work then has removed a huge benefit employees extract from work.

 

Second, quiet quitting suggests those who explore the concept believe there is something better out there for them — like getting a better job. Quiet quitting can’t help you get another job. Reputations matter and so do references.

 

If you tank your relationships at your current job you could leave yourself at the bottom of a very steep hill.

 

Remote workers are often viewed with an air of caution. They must do more to establish their loyalty, work ethic and discipline. When you quiet quit, your reputation will precede you and limit your options.

 

Nothing about quiet quitting on its face suggests employers can terminate employees for cause or leave an employee with no compensation on termination. It certainly could be the case that workers can skate by, only doing less until they extract a severance package.

 

But don’t be fooled by the trappings of the movement.

 

Quiet quitting does not empower employees. It adds to the growing resentment toward remote work and fuels its detractors.

 

Quiet quitting is a disservice to yourself.

 

On to this week’s questions:

 

Q. My employer fired me for cause after I started a part time job on the side. The company said I breached my employment agreement and said that this justified paying me nothing on my termination. Do you have any advice?

 

A. It is very difficult for an employer to establish cause in any employment case. Sometimes employers want your full time and attention (and not allow employees to work elsewhere even during off hours) or don’t want employees working for other companies that compete with your employer. Even in these scenarios, terminations are usually without cause. I advise every employee that is terminated for cause to get legal advice immediately.

 

Q. Is there a duty for employers to allow employees to come into work? We hired a remote team but one member has asked for an in-office workspace. We actually do not have the infrastructure for this and no one would be available in person to manage this employee. I want to ensure we are not breaking any rules though if we don’t provide the workspace.

 

A. You wouldn’t be breaking any rules if you hired the employee to work remotely. The terms of employment are often governed by an employment agreement or even a job description. If the position was posted as a remote role, the employee shouldn’t have a reasonable expectation of having access to an in-office workspace.

 

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at sunira@worklylaw.com and your question may be featured in a future column.

 

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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