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WRONGFUL DISMISSAL - Dismissal without cause - Reasonable notice period or wages in lieu

Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 8:41 AM  

Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Appeal by the plaintiff, Pound, from dismissal of his claim for wrongful dismissal. In November 2014, the defendant, iWave Information Systems, hired the plaintiff, age 45, as its marketing and communications manager. The plaintiff's employment was terminated in January 2015 prior to expiration of a three-month probationary period stipulated in the employment contract. The plaintiff sought wrongful dismissal damages. He alleged he was not advised of any lack of suitability for the position or given any opportunity to address shortcomings. The defendant submitted it acted in accordance with its contractual rights in terminating the plaintiff's probationary employment. The trial judge found no breach of the employment contract and no breach of the common law obligations owed to a probationary employee. The trial judge's conclusion was predicated on a finding the defendant attempted to communicate the plaintiff's shortcomings without success. The claim was dismissed. The plaintiff appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The trial judge made reversible errors in interpreting the employment contract and in applying the contract to the circumstances. It was clear that the termination letter did not comply with the employment contract, as it failed to detail the reasons for termination. The failure to state the reasons constituted a straightforward breach of contract. In addition, the trial judge's finding that no breach occurred misinterpreted the contractual term requiring "coaching for improved performance". To the extent the trial judge found no basis to apply the coaching provision, that view was unreasonable. The non-compliance with the coaching provision was a further breach of the employment agreement. Damages were assessed in the amount of $15,625, reflecting three months' pay in lieu of reasonable notice.

Pound v. iWave Information Systems (2005) Inc., [2017] P.E.I.J. No. 37, Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal, D.H. Jenkins C.J.P.E.I. and J.K. Mitchell J.A. and N.L. Key J., September 26, 2017. Digest No. TLD-Oct22017010