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Just Cause

Employer did not have just cause to dismiss VP Finance it alleged was insolent, insubordinate and lacked judgment

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Manufacturing

In Kokilev v. Picquic Tool Company Inc., 2010 BCSC 1412, the BC Supreme Court ruled that an employer did not have just cause to dismiss its VP Finance on the basis that he was insolent, insubordinate and lacked judgment.

At the time his employment was terminated, the VP Finance had almost eight years of service, earned $100,000 annually and was approximately 41 years old. The court awarded him a 10 month notice period.

(Postscript: James D. Kondopulos, a lawyer at Roper Greyell in Vancouver, has written a summary of the case that can be found here: "Dealing with the Insolent, Insubordinate or Disobedient Employee". The article first appeared in the B.C. Human Resources Management Association's HRVoice Magazine (March 2011)).

Employee-shareholder dismissed for cause awarded damages for improper invocation of Shareholders' Agreement

Jurisdiction: - Ontario

In Link v. Venture Steel Inc. and Ruben Rivas, 2010 ONCA 144 the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a decision in which a former Vice-President of Sales was awarded more than $4 million in damages, most of which related to company shares the employer had improperly purchased, pursuant to a Shareholders' Agreement, at the time it dismissed the employee for just cause.

The case also addressed the issue of how non-competition and non-solicitation provisions in a Shareholders Agreement will impact on a court's analysis of whether an employee's mitigation efforts were reasonable.

Lawyers at Fasken Martineau has prepared a summary of the case ("Beware the Perils of Firing Employee-Shareholders", June 22, 2010) that can be found here

"Terminating Employees for Cause: A Review of Recent Cases on Just Cause"

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

"Terminating Employees for Cause: A Review of Recent Cases on Just Cause" is the title of a paper prepared by Michael R. Howcroft.

The paper was prepared for the Employment Law Conference (Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia) in May 2010. Mr. Howcroft is a lawyer at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, in Vancouver, BC,

The paper addresses the following topics:

  • Dishonesty
  • Dishonesty During Investigation

"Employee Improprieties – Avoiding Disaster When Dealing With the Dishonest Employee"

Ontario lawyer Howard A. Levitt, at Lang Michener LLP, has written a paper entitled, "Employee Improprieties - Avoiding Disaster When Dealing With the Dishonest Employee" (May 2010).

He presented the paper at the ACFI 12th Annual Fraud Conference and Workshop in Toronto on May 3, 2010. The paper's introduction states: 

This paper will attempt to identify what kind of dishonest conduct amounts to just cause for dismissal, and provide the employer with effective strategies for identifying, investigating and ultimately removing dishonest employees from the workplace, without exposing itself to liability. 

Alberta jury awards almost $1 million in damages to employee dismissed for sexual harassment

The case of Elgert v. Home Hardware Stores Limited, 2010 ABQB 73 (CanLII), concerned a senior employee in a management position was dismissed for just cause based on alleged sexually harassment and insubordination. At the time, he had worked for Home Hardware for almost 17 years and was over the age of 50.

The alleged incidents occurred in late 2001/early2002 at the Home Hardware distribution centre in Wetaskiwin, an hour's drive from Edmonton.

The first complainant alleged that the Plaintiff, Mr. Elgert, pushed her into a dark storage room, pushed her up against a table, held her hands down and wiggled his body between her legs.

The second compliant alleged that a few months later while she was cleaning a first aid room in the warehouse, the Plaintiff entered the room, turned off the light and shut the door. He then bumped her backwards until she fell onto a cot. He laid on top of her, and lingered there.

One of the complainants was the daughter of the head of the distribution centre.  read more »

Employer to pay $20,000 in punitive damages for not fully investigating allegations before dismissing for just cause

The employer in Nishina v. Azuma Foods (Canada ) Co. Ltd., 2010 BCSC 502, was ordered to pay $20,000 in punitive damages for dismissing an employee for just cause without properly investigating the allegations of misconduct.  

The case is also of interest in that the court addressed:

  • the contractual force of workplace policy handbooks; and
  • the degree to which different cultural norms - in this case, the importance of an apology in Japanese culture - will impact on the just cause analysis.

Background 

The employer was a Japanese company with operations in California and BC. It produced Japanese ready-to-eat frozen food products.

The employee was a Japanese citizen.  At the time of her dismissal, she was 43 years old, had 6 years, four months service and was employed as a quality control associate. She earned approximately $52,000 per year.     read more »

"Conducting A Harassment Investigation, The Do's and Don'ts"

Alberta lawyer Carolyn Hutniak has prepared some useful guidelines for employers on "Conducting A Harassment Investigation, The Do's and Don'ts" (undated).

The Top 10 Canadian court cases on wrongful dismissal and employment law

For an upcoming audio conference, Lancaster House has listed what it believes are the Top 10 Canadian cases (actually 13) on wrongful dismissal and employment law. In no particular order, it appears, the cases and the issues they address are:  read more »