Company must pay thousands after misleading worker on future employment

The court said the employer was 'untruthful, misleading, and unduly insensitive'

Company must pay thousands after misleading worker on future employment

A mining company has been slapped with a $50,000 fine after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that it misled an employee regarding an employment opportunity.

The said worker had served as a general manager of the mine in 2013, before becoming the general manager. He was later retained from his position even after a change of management took place, according to the court findings.

In November 2019, however, the new owners of the mine decided to sell it to another company, with the completion date set on March 2020. The general manager, between those four months, "assisted in facilitating the sale,” according to the court document.

But it was also at the time that his status as a would-be employee was put into question.

According to the court document, his employer said he would be "going with" the mine when it was sold. However, a letter released in mid-March baring the list of employees staying after it was sold did not have the general manager's name on it.

It was also around the same time that the general manager realised that he has yet to receive his annual long-term incentive award - which his employer assured would be provided to employees by the buyers of the mine after the sale.

However, the employer learned around that time that the general manager would not be receiving an employment offer from the buyer of the mine.

The employer did not tell him about this until March 30, where they also told him that he will be terminated effective March 31.

Following the incident, the general manager then sued his employer for wrongful dismissal, citing that they "misled him, acted dishonestly, and breached the duty of good faith owed to him when he repeatedly and reasonably inquired about the status of his employment."

Read more: Mining for success: BHP Billiton’s global HR strategy

Court ruling

In its decision, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ultimately sided with the general manager.

Citing Doyle v. Zochem Inc., the court reiterated that "there is an obligation of good faith in the manner of dismissal of an employee and that damages are available where an employer engages in conduct that is 'unfair or is in bad faith by being… untruthful, misleading, or unduly insensitive."

It also cited Matthews v. Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. on the "duty of honest performance," where parties "must not lie to or otherwise knowingly mislead their counterpart about matters directly linked to the performance of the contract."

In line with this, court then found that the conduct of the employer was "untruthful, misleading and unduly insensitive."

"This finding supports an award of moral or exemplary damages in favour of the plaintiff in the amount of $50,000.00."

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