Court Awards $5,660 in Notice But $60,000 in Aggravated & Punitive Damages :

In Fobert v MCRCI Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre ( 2020 BCSC 2043) Fleming J. awarded 8 weeks notice to a 25 year old clerical employee with 1.5 years service.

However, the Judge was very concerned about the treatment the young employee received as she was being terminated. Here is what the Judge said:

[99] I note the employer’s dealings with the employee after the dismissal may be considered as part of the manner of dismissal: see Acumen Law Corporation v. Ojanen, 2019 BCSC 1352 at para. 126.

[100] I have no difficulty in concluding aspects of the defendants’ conduct during the dismissal process, after the termination meeting on May 24, 2019 significantly breached an employer’s obligation of good faith and fair dealing. That conduct included the ongoing withholding of Ms. Fobert’s unpaid wages and statutory severance, both modest amounts, well after the defendants were aware of their statutory obligations, and most significantly Mr. Liu’s conduct during the June 6 meeting.

[101] To be clear, I view Mr. Liu’s conduct during the June 6 meeting as appalling, harsh and reprehensible. He made false and serious allegations of financial impropriety, used aggressive and intimidating language and repeatedly engaged in a range of bullying tactics. Further, although he did not yell, his tone and manner of communicating were intimidating.

[102] To be specific, Mr. Liu alleged more than once that Ms. Fobert was part of a group of employees who had engaged in the misuse of enormous amounts of money although she never had any spending authority. In an obvious attempt to intimidate, he told her that the rest of the group had signed off without any severance. He made it clear the defendants were willing to sue and withstand being sued, emphasizing their financial advantage and his own. After indicating she would be offered nothing, he offered $500 severance, an amount well below her statutory entitlement. Mr. Liu then pressured Ms. Fobert into accepting the offer immediately, telling her it would be revoked after the meeting and refusing to put it in writing. He also commented that meeting over such a minor financial matter was not worth his time, which was disparaging if not contemptuous. The same is true of his response to a perfectly reasonable question about contact information, “I’m not you legal counsel. Go find the guy, 500 bucks an hour, to tell you “

That got her $25,000 in aggravated damages.

When it got to assessing punitive damages, the Court also focused on the Defendant’s litigation conduct.

[117] Ms. Fobert also relies on the defendants’ conduct in the litigation, namely making allegations of serious misconduct in the response to civil claim, despite admitting she was dismissed without cause. The pleaded allegations include Ms. Fobert breaching a non-competition term in the Employment Agreement by accepting employment with an MCRCI competitor “immediately subsequent to her termination”; and disparaging the defendants and their Directors to four MCRCI employees around the time of termination, which caused lost business and the resignation of employees. None of the allegations were even raised at the trial.

Having described the Defendant’s conduct as ” harsh and reprehensible ” as well as ” vindictive and malicious ” the Judge also awarded $35,000 in punitive damages.

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