Admin gets one month’s notice for every month of service

Employer gave her implicit assurances the job was secure

An administrative assistant on the job for only five months before she was let go was awarded five months’ pay in lieu of notice by a B.C. court because the employer gave her implicit assurances the job was secure.

Cauleene Pollock was hired by Patrick Cotter Architecture Inc. in August 2004 at an annual salary of $43,200. In February 2005 she was fired and given two weeks’ severance after the company decided to make organizational changes.

Pollock said the company had induced her to leave a previous job where she’d worked for five years in a secure position.

She said that, during her second interview, she asked about the viability of the firm and was told the company had enough work for several years, didn’t anticipate a slowdown, and if there were layoffs it would involve technical rather than administrative staff.

The company said it did not induce Pollock to leave her previous job. She was looking to move, responded to its newspaper ad, and accepted a new job at a higher salary. It said there had been no promises of secure employment.

The British Columbia Supreme Court said employers have the right to reorganize their businesses as they see fit. But when they do, employees are entitled to reasonable notice or pay in lieu.

In this case the company knew Pollock was concerned about job security and its decision to fire her after five months was unfair. There had been implicit assurances made to Pollock that her job would continue for a reasonable period of time.

She had not been induced to leave her previous employer, but some weight should be given to the implied promise of continued employment, the court said. An implicit assurance does not have the same weight as an explicit assurance, but the amount of notice should be increased to safeguard her interests, the court said.

Pollock, 60, had not been able to obtain another job. She was awarded five months’ notice ($18,000.)

For more information see:

Pollock v. Patrick Cotter Architect Inc., 2005 CarswellBC 3158, 2005 BCSC 1799 (B.C. S.C.).

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