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Workplace Policies

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.


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 »

Many Vancouver employers may not be ready for challenges employees will face getting to work during Winter Olympics

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

A recent survey has revealed that a significant number of Vancouver employers may not be ready for the challenges their employees will face getting to work as a result of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. According to Hewitt Associates, a global human resources firm:

Of the 123 organizations from across the country that responded to the survey, three-quarters have employees in Vancouver. Nevertheless, as of early January when the survey was conducted, only 54 per cent had created a business preparedness plan to address the challenges the influx of athletes, spectators and media will present for commuting employees.

Hewitt Associates also states that the solutions employers are including in their plans to address expected traffic issues are:  read more »

No just cause for dismissal but notice limited to that set out in the Associate Handbook

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Retail Trade

Arasteh v. Best Buy Canada Ltd., 2010 BCSC 48

(Note: In a recent Saskatchewan case - Fox v. Silver Sage Housing Corporation, 2008 SKQB 321 - it was found that an employee was not bound by the termination provisions in a policy manual that had been introduced 13 years after he commenced employment.)

Ban in BC on electronic devices while driving will be in effect as of January 1, 2010

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia - Ontario - Quebec

Following the lead of seven other provinces - including Ontario and Quebec - BC is introducing a ban on the use of electronic devices while driving effective January 1, 2010.

My former colleagues at Lawson Lundell LLP have prepared a bulletin that provides an overview of the rules and outlines the steps that employers should take in response to the ban. The bulletin can be read here.

"The Wrongful Dismissal Manual"

Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP has published "The Wrongful Dismissal Manual" (October 2009), which is "designed to provide employers with guidance on the general statutoryand common law principles applicable whenever an employee's employment is terminated in Canada's four main business jurisdictions: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec."

More on the CIBC overtime decision

Jurisdiction: - Canada/Federal - Ontario

As I noted in my post two days ago, the Ontario Superior Court refused to certify an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit against CIBC by its employees. Fresco v. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 2009 CanLII 31177 (ON S.C.).

The claim for unpaid overtime alleged that CIBC's Overtime Policy (the "Policy") contravened the Canada Labour Code ("CLC') in two key ways:

  1. it required that employees receive approval in advance from a manager in order to be compensated for overtime hours worked, unless there were extenuating circumstances and approval was obtained as soon as possible afterwards; and
  2. it provided paid time off at the rate of 1.5 in lieu of monetary compensation, at the option of the employee.

Canada Labour Code overtime provisions  read more »

Senior employee's refusal to submit budget with head office's desired profit projections not cause for dismissal

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

In Adams v. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc., 2009 BCSC 681, the BC Supreme Court found that the employer did not have cause to dismiss a senior employee because of her refusal to prepare an annual budget that that included the employer's desired profit projections.

In doing so, the court reviewed the law on insubordination, and when it can amount to cause for dismissal in light of the "contextual approach" that was mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada in McKinley v. BC Tel, 2001 SCC 38.


The plaintiff was the General Manager of a hotel that was part of a luxury chain. At the time her employment was terminated she was 41, had 12 years of service and was earning approximately $150,000 per year (exclusive of bonuses and benefits).

The hotel chain's corporate office (the "employer") alleged that it had cause to dismiss the plaintiff for insubordination because:  read more »

Ontario introduces Bill 168 which will require employers to take action to combat workplace violence and harassment

Jurisdiction: - Ontario

The Ontario government introduced Bill 168 on April 20, 2009. If passed, the Bill will amend the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and set out requirements that employer's must follow to combat violence and certain forms of harassment in the workplace. You can read more about Bill 168 in an article written by McCarthy Tetrault that can be found here.