If you accept a position or job offer that is eliminated before your start date, are you eligible for damages for wrongful dismissal? Positions can be cut for a number of reasons: re-structuring, financial difficulties, economic cut-backs, redundancy and more.
Whatever the reason, if you are counting on a job that never actually materializes, it could be considered a breach of contract if you aren’t given sufficient notice. Sufficient notice for wrongful dismissal claims vary depending the terms, type of employment and the employee’s personal details.
Wrongful Dismissal- What happens if You Were Never Technically an Employee?
An experienced geology teacher was offered a temporary position as an instructor at a post-secondary institution for the period of one term. The college seeking his services sent him a letter and enclosed documents which included the details of his position in regards to rank, start date, duration of employment and salary. He also received the collective agreement between the college board and faculty outlining terms and conditions of his employment. He signed and submitted the acceptance letter, securing his position with the college.
The college discovered soon after, they were required to downsize due to budgetary cut-backs. In this situation, the position they offered the teacher was viewed as redundant. The position was eliminated and the college informed the teacher a mere 3 months before his start date. Understandably upset, he filed a grievance with the faculty association, but wasn’t recognized as an employee. As a result, he suspended his grievance proceedings in favour of a wrongful dismissal claim.
Wrongful Dismissal- Employee or Not, You Still have Rights
The court agreed with the faculty association and the Labour Relations Board in its ruling that the teacher was never an employee. Surprisingly, this worked in the teacher’s favour: as an employee, he would have been bound by the terms of the collective agreement. His only form of recourse would have been a grievance procedure, with no option of legal action or a wrongful dismissal claim.
The college then claimed that the employment package initially sent to the teacher was not a binding contract, but a pre-contract to the official document. Based on the contents, the document was determined to be a valid employment contract, thus the college was bound to its terms. It didn’t matter that the college was forced to eliminate the redundant position due to cut-backs. As they didn’t provide the teacher with the required 6 months’ notice or compensation in lieu of, they were found in breach of contract.
Despite his experience, expertise and documented efforts, the teacher had difficulty finding steady work after his wrongful dismissal. The court recognized that positions in his field were scarce and noted that he only managed to find work as a part-time substitute. The teacher was awarded 6 months’ notice. As the college had given him 3 months’ notice, he was awarded the remainder at full salary, medical benefits, holiday pay, plus interest. All earnings the teacher did accumulate during those 3 months were deducted from this total amount.
If you would like to learn more about wrongful dismissal, please contact Wrongful Dismissal Lawyer, Bob Yeager.
Root: Wrongful Dismissal Young v. Okanagan College Board
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