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Supervisor's defamatory appraisal of dismissed employee protected by qualified privilege

In Dawydiuk v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2010 BCCA 353, the BC Court of Appeal addressed whether the contents of an email written by a dismissed employee's supervisor were defamatory and , if so, whether they were  protected by the defence of qualified privilege.

Background 

Ms. Dawydiuk began her employment with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia ("ICBC") in 1988 as a clerk. At the time of her dismissal in 2004, she was 38 years-old and in a managerial position.

Ms. Dawydiuk had been off work since June 2003, first on a sick leave and then on a maternity/parental leave.  She was scheduled to return to work on October 4, 2004.

On July 5, 2004, while still on leave, Ms.Dawydiuk was phoned by her supervisor and advised of a restructuring that had resulted in her position being eliminated. Her supervisor advised her of two other available managerial positions, however, and asked her to let him know which one she would like.  read more »

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

Failure to adequately follow-up after fire destroyed employee's home, attack on reputation, lead to $20,000 bad faith damages

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Retail Trade

In Beggs v. Westport Foods Ltd., 2010 BCSC 833, the court awarded the plaintiff/former employee $20,000 in bad faith/unfair dealing damages because, among other factors:

  • the employer only tried to contact the employee twice after a fire destroyed her home before assuming she had quit; and
  • the employer's lawyer had attacked the plaintiff's reputation and had undertaken a generally aggressive tone in his correspondence with the plaintiff's lawyer.

Background

The plaintiff had worked as a clerk in the employer's meat department for 9.5 years. She earned $13.10/hour.  She had a Grade 12 education, was 52 years old and had a "good record" at work.

Triggering Event

On February 18, 2009, the plaintiff's mobile home was destroyed by a fire. She phoned her supervisor the next day to advise that she would be coming into work as scheduled that day, and did not know when she would be returning to work.  read more »

Tort of negligent infliction of mental suffering not available in employment context, ONCA rules

In an important decision that came out on May 28, 2010 - Piresferreira v. Ayotte, 2010 ONCA 384 - the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that employees cannot sue their employers for the tort of negligent infliction of mental suffering, at least in Ontario.

Background

At the time of the incident that led to the termination of her employment with Bell Mobility, the plaintiff, Ms. Pieresferreira, was an Account Manager, had 10 years service, was 60 years olds, and had received mostly excellent performance reviews.

As set out by the Court of Appeal, her supervisor, Mr. Ayotte, was a "critical, demanding, loud and aggressive manager" who was known to "swear at employees, had a temper and would bang his fist on the table to make a point" (para. 5).  read more »

Employer receives $11.4 million in damages for former employees wrongful resignation, breach of fiduciary duties

Jurisdiction: - Ontario

I'm extremely slow off the mark on reporting on this case, given that it was issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in September 2009.

However, the decision in GasTOPS Ltd. v. Forsyth, 2009 CanLII 66153 (ON S.C.) - which has been called "a treatise of judicial guidance on both wrongful resignation and who is a fiduciary, and the damages which from both" by one legal commentator - demands inclusion in the blog, even at this late date.

Briefly put, it saw an employer who sued four of its former employees for wrongful resignation and breach of fiduciary duties receive a damages award of $11.4 million. The employees had departed after giving only two weeks notice to set up/work in their own company, which competed with GasTOPS.

The judgment is apparently currently the subject of both an appeal and across-appeal.  read more »

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 »

"Independent, Dependent or Employee -- How Would you Describe Your Contractor?"

Barb Cornish, at Singleton Urquhart in Vancouver, has published an article entitled, "Independent, Dependent or Employee -- How Would you Describe Your Contractor?" (April 12, 2010).

The article discusses the Ontario Court of Appeal's December 2009 decision in McKee v. Reid's Heritage Homes Ltd., 2009 ONCA 916, in which the court reaffirmed:

  1. the existence and definition of the dependent contractor relationship; and
  2. that such individuals are owed reasonable notice (or payment in lieu) on termination.