Alberta employee wins wrongful termination lawsuit
A safety manager in Alberta recently won $28,000 in damages against his former employer in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. The employee had worked at the company for 3.5 years and had a flawless work record at the time he received an email from his manager stating, "Don’t bother coming in either I’ll look after all this k that your two weeks. Thanks for your services have good day” [sic]. The employee subsequently alleged wrongful termination, whereas the employer argued that the employee had quit, or, alternatively, that the employer had just cause for termination.
The Provincial Court of Alberta rejected the employer’s arguments, finding that the email from the manager amounted to termination. The court also found that the employer did not have just cause for dismissal, as the employee hadn’t failed to complete a task assigned to him, namely, adding certain safety procedures to the employer’s safety manual. Moreover, the court also found that the employee telling his manager to “f__ off” on a telephone call did not meet the just cause threshold, as there was no scene made in public or in front of other employees. The employee was ultimately awarded 4 months of pay in lieu of notice, amounting to approximately $28,000 in damages.
Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance provides coverage for employment related claims made against an organization and its directors, officers and employees. If the policy contains robust wording, some coverage may be available on private company forms for pay-in-lieu of notice damages. However, there continues to be a disparity as to the extent of coverage provided. While some carriers will cover the wages ultimately awarded by a court that are over and above what is required by legislation, most others will cover only wages awarded by a court that are over and above the amount offered at the time of termination by the employer in a contract or settlement offer. This coverage is, for the most part, not yet available for public companies with standalone EPL insurance.