Terminated Employee Awarded Aggravated Damages for Employer's Conduct.

 
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Termination of employment can cause an employee a great deal of hardship. This is especially true when allegations of misconduct and insubordination are at play. The case of Lalonde v. Sena Solid Waste Holdings Inc, 2017 ABQB 374 cautions employers to exercise good faith when dismissing an employee. At the time of his termination, Mr. Lalonde (the "Plaintiff") was a 56-year-old millwright who had worked at the Swan Hills Waste Treatment Plant (the "Facility") from April 15, 2008 until his dismissal on July 24, 2012. Prior to his dismissal, he had not received any verbal or written warnings from his employer, nor had he been subject to any suspensions. On June 13, 2012, the Plaintiff was called to the office of his manager and was accused of a number of workplace infractions, including putting a life in danger, lying to his supervisor-, and insubordination. The Plaintiff was surprised by the allegations, but was not given an opportunity to respond. He was told he was suspended, and was escorted off the Facility by two other employees. Subsequently, the Plaintiff made efforts to communicate his side of the story. For several weeks he did not hear anything from his employer, and became so upset while waiting for a response that he went on stress leave. Then, on July 24, 2012, the Plaintiff received a letter advising him that his employment had been terminated for just cause "due to [his] failure to follow safety procedures and [his] failure to follow [his] supervisor's instructions."

As a last resort, the Plaintiff wrote a letter to a Division Manager providing a detailed response to the allegations and asked a number of questions. The employer responded with a list of safety infractions it investigated in the course of making its decision to terminate him. The Plaintiff subsequently filed a claim against the employer seeking compensation for wrongful dismissal. The Notice Period and Letters of Employment The Court found that the Plaintiff had been wrongfully dismissed without just cause. As a result, the Court turned its mind to the question of an appropriate notice period. The Plaintiff had signed two employment letters in 2008 (the "April 2008 employment letter") and again in 2011 (the "February 2011 employment letter") when ownership of the Facility changed. The employer argued the April 2008 employment letter applied, as this limited reasonable notice to the amounts prescribed by provincial legislation. For his part, the Plaintiff argued the...

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