Legal Victory: 18-Month Contract Worker Awarded Over $80,000 in Wrongful Dismissal Case

In a recent legal battle between a fixed-term contract worker and her employer, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in favour of the employee, awarding her more than $80,000 in a wrongful dismissal claim. The case sheds light on the intricacies of fixed-term employment contracts and the significance of proper termination procedures.

The plaintiff, referred to as KL, was hired by Gisborne Holdings Ltd. on an 18-month contract as a departmental administrator to replace a full-time worker on parental leave temporarily. However, KL’s employment was abruptly terminated after only six weeks, leading to a legal dispute.

The heart of the matter revolved around an email KL sent to Gisborne’s human resources manager, IG, addressing various concerns related to her employment. While KL contended that she was terminated without cause, Gisborne argued that the email created an irreparable breakdown in the employment relationship, justifying her termination.

The court’s decision hinged on the terms of the employment contract. The court disagreed despite Gisborne’s claim that the termination was justified due to the email. The contract explicitly outlined a fixed term from May 2, 2022, to Oct. 27, 2023, with no provisions for termination without cause. Additionally, the contract specified compensation details, including an hourly rate and a completion bonus payable on the contract’s end date or in case of layoff. There is no provision for partial payment for quitting or termination for cause.

KL’s email, which became a focal point of the dispute, addressed several employment-related issues professionally. Although her manager deemed it “borderline insubordinate,” the court found the content and tone reasonable and professional. Justice Lamers conducted a contextual analysis, examining the nature and extent of the alleged misconduct, surrounding circumstances, and the proportionality of dismissal. The judge concluded that termination for cause was not proportional to the email, and Gisborne failed to consider alternative disciplinary measures.

Furthermore, the court emphasized that the fixed-term employment contract did not authorize termination without cause. The court rejected Gisborne’s reliance on the “Completion Bonus” clause as justification for termination without cause.

KL sought damages for the amount she would have earned if she had completed the full term of the contract, along with punitive damages for the manner of her dismissal and the baseless allegation of cause. The court awarded her $81,100 in damages, equivalent to the earnings she would have received for the remainder of her contract, rejecting the claim for punitive damages.

In summary, this case highlights the importance of adhering to the terms of fixed-term employment contracts and that employers must consider proportionate disciplinary measures before resorting to termination. The court’s decision underscores the significance of fair employment practices and the potential legal consequences for employers who fail to abide by contractual agreements. Source: HR Law Canada – Worker on 18-month contract, fired after six weeks for harsh wording in email, awarded more than $80,000

The latest insights

Read more

The Legal Implications of Quitting Without Proper Notice

Read more

Read more

Duty to accommodate discharged after worker declines lower-level position

Read more

Read more

When Posts Have Consequences: Legal Perspective on Social Media and Work

Read more

Sign-up for our Newsletter

Want current, relevant updates on issues that matter to your workplace? Sign up to receive our monthly e-newsletter!

[ Sign-up for the eNewsletter ]