Being let go from your job unexpectedly can be stressful and difficult for any employee. In a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice case, the court has reinforced that employers choosing to make the experience especially traumatic for employees may face stiff penalties for their conduct. The recent decision in Pohl v. Hudson’s Bay Company, should be a reminder for employers that mistreatment of employees at dismissal might come at a cost.
Mr. Pohl had spent his entire working life at HBC, with a total tenure of 28 years. Upon his dismissal, HBC offered him a new job which had a much worse compensation structure and would potentially result in him sustaining a significant pay cut. And he had no time to think about it: HBC asked for his decision as to whether he would accept the new position in two days and did not recommend that he speak with a lawyer first. Accepting the new offer would also require Mr. Pohl to relinquish any claim he had for his hefty common law severance entitlements. The Court found that Mr. Pohl was essentially offered nothing in exchange for relinquishing his entitlements.
Further, if Mr. Pohl did not accept HBC’s offer, HBC attempted to pay his statutory entitlements out in a continuance fashion, instead of a lump sum. The Court found this to be unacceptable and emphasized that this was an attempt not to comply with the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The Court found that this manner of payment would effectively turn Mr. Pohl into an unsecured creditor.
Following his dismissal, HBC also withheld his Record of Employment, further compounding his stress and confusion at the time of dismissal. As a final humiliation, the company chose to escort him out the door upon dismissal, despite the fact that his employment was terminated without cause due to restructuring.
The Court awarded Mr. Pohl an extra $55,000 on account of his poor treatment at HBC’s hands. This decision should have employers double checking themselves to ensure that they are not mistreating an employee at dismissal. Being let go from employment is especially difficult time for employees, and the courts have repeatedly affirmed that employers need to treat them fairly during their time of vulnerability. It is more important now than ever that both employers and employees consult with experienced legal counsel in the event of dismissal.
We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.
Author: Carson Healey