The power of a well-written employment contract has been proven yet again after an employee of 17 years lost her wrongful dismissal claim.
After 17 years with the company, employee Bernice Stangenberg was dismissed from her position without cause – despite her long tenure, the support specialist received the equivalent of eight weeks’ salary – the minimum set out in provincial legislation.
Stangenberg sued the Edmonton-based business for wrongful dismissal and applied for summary judgment – the sole issue was whether the termination clause noted in her employment contract barred her claim for damages beyond the eight weeks.
The clause in question stated:
In the event that [the employer] terminates your employment without cause, [the employer] will provide the notice or pay in lieu of notice required by the Alberta Employments Standard [sic] Code or other applicable legislation. You are not entitled to any other termination notice, pay in lieu of notice, or other benefits.
Reassuringly, the court considered the termination clause to be "clear, express and unambiguous" – and dismissed Stangenberg’s claim. It also stated that it was "difficult to think of wording that might make the employer's intention any clearer".
“This case emphasizes the importance of careful drafting of termination provisions, and shows that if done correctly, an employer can significantly reduce its liability on a termination without cause,” stressed leading employment lawyer Cristine Wendel.
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