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Notice Period

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.

65 year old employee with 40 years service awarded 20 months notice; pension payments not deducted

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - High Tech

In Waterman v. IBM Canada Limited, 2010 BCSC 376, a 65 year old employee with 40 years of service was awarded a 20 month notice period. At the time of dismissal, the employee had had no plans to retire.

In reaching its decision, the BC Supreme Court addressed the following issues of interest:

  1. the impact of the character of employment on the notice period;
  2. the impact of health problems on the notice period;
  3. compensation for lost stock purchases over the notice period; and
  4. whether pension benefits received over the notice period should be deducted from the damages award.

Character of Employment
 read more »