Baby Boomer Decision Likely to be Echoed

Mar 20, 2012

The horde of baby boomers primed to leave the workforce presents difficult decisions for HR managers, the most prominent being if and how to terminate long-term employees.  Though keeping them around can mean lower productivity, as Suzuki Canada recently discovered, letting them go can often be much more costly.
The case, Hussain v. Suzuki Canada Ltd. was recently heard in the Ontario Superior Court and should serve as a harbinger to employers considering a strategy of offering the minimum in severance to exiting long-term employees.  Employment lawyer Daniel Lublin reviews this recent case in an article published in The Lawyers Weekly.
The plaintiff, Syed Hussain was an assistant warehouse manager for most of his 36 years with Suzuki, and intended to stay until retirement.  When his productivity declined, Suzuki decided it was time to let him go.  After spending his entire working career in Canada with Suzuki, Hussain’s prospects for finding similar employment within the industry were grim.  Thankfully, he successfully sued for wrongful dismissal and was awarded 26 months severance (compared to the 9 he was initially offered).
The implications of this ruling are significant.  Employers are no longer safe in assuming the cap for damages is 24 months – as the judge reasoned that the combination of factors made Hussain’s (and no doubt others to come) an exceptional one.  Justice Roberts also made the judgment payable by lump sum, only nine months into the 26 month period, having evaluated the chances of Hussain finding suitable employment so low that he could instead garnish the total payment by 1%.  This detail is extremely beneficial to employees, who could otherwise incur further costs proving mitigation of lost income.
Hussain v. Suzuki Canada serves to reinforce an existing trend in the courts to penalize employers for offering the minimum in severance.  Given that we are still in the early stages of the baby boomer exodus, now is the time to strategize and think about exploring creative options.

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