Chef dishes wrongful dismissal suit

Date: 2006
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: Metro
A politician’s broken promise or a recipe for disaster? For Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his former chef, Henrick Lundsgaard, the truth remains to be seen. What we do know is Harper’s former chef has a new and special dish he is cooking up for the prime minister — a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
Harper’s former chef, Lundsgaard alleges he was wrongfully dismissed. He is reportedly seeking $250,000 from Harper and his wife, Laureen, for lost wages, emotional trauma and damage to his reputation. Lundsgaard had been the chef at Stornoway, the home of the leader of the official opposition, for more than four years. He claims when it appeared Harper would win the election and make the move to 24 Sussex Dr., the prime minister’s residence, he was told by Laureen he would be coming with them.
Instead, according to reports, the date Harper was elected, Lundsgaard lost his job. He now claims the humiliation and embarrassment along with damage to his sense of self-worth has caused him to seek therapy.
While Chef Lundsgaard’s wrongful dismissal lawsuit may be the soup de jour, and indeed an interesting one, the issues involved are not uncommon. How can you tell if you have a potential case of wrongful dismissal or just a dish that’s gone cold? Here are seven questions to ask yourself if you’ve recently been dismissed:

  1. Were you non-unionized? Unionized employees have specific grievance procedures available under their collective agreement and therefore, cannot have their wrongful dismissal case heard in the courts.
  2. Did you have a written termination provision in your contract of employment? A contract can limit your legal entitlements upon termination, where it is clearly drafted, validly signed and compliant with the applicable legislation.
  3. Were you a probationary employee? If you are fired during the probationary term of your employment, it is unlikely you can sustain a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.
  4. Were you fired for just cause? When an employer successfully proves just cause, you are not entitled to any damages whatsoever. The onus, however, rests with the employer.
  5. Were you a short service employee? Generally, if you were employed for a short period of time, your damages may only amount to the minimum standards in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.
  6. Did your termination occur longer than two years ago? In Ontario, there is a limitation period requiring wrongful dismissal lawsuits are commenced within two years of your termination.
  7. Did you sign a release? If you have signed a valid release, you may have limited your chances of recovering any amounts that you could have otherwise been entitled to.