Car salesman loses passion, then position

Mosey v. Lally Group Ltd. (2002), 111 A.C.W.S. (3d) 947 (Ont. S.C.J.)

The plaintiff, Mosey, sought damages for wrongful dismissal from his former employer, Lally Ford, an automotive dealership. Mosey was hired as a salesman in 1988, and was promoted to sales manager at the end of 1996. In late 1998, Lally told Mosey a different compensation structure would be implemented for 1999. The effect of the new pay scheme would reduce Mosey’s total income, including bonuses, by about $20,000. Although Mosey was not happy about the change in the bonus structure, he did accept it.

In March 1999 a trainer was brought in by Lally to institute a new selling process at the dealership. By June the trainer was dissatisfied with the lack of progress in implementing the new system, and the president of Lally Ford expressed his displeasure to his management staff. Following this meeting Mosey and the president spoke in private and Mosey said that he had lost his passion for the job and was working at 60 per cent of his capacity.

Mosey stated that he felt his job satisfaction would be restored if his previous bonus structure was reinstituted. The president felt that it was unacceptable to have a sales manager who had lost his passion for the job and was only putting in 60 per cent effort. Accordingly, he informed Mosey that he felt that it was best if he moved back into sales.

The court held that this demotion amounted to a clear termination of Mosey’s employment. This was a wrongful dismissal as there was not sufficient cause to terminate his employment. The court found that Mosey was upset when he made his comments to the president, and they could not be taken as an acknowledgment that Mosey was not performing.

The job offered to Mosey could not be considered a substitute position. In particular Mosey insisted that before he would accept a new position in sales he wanted a provision in his employment contract that if he was terminated, severance would be based on his salary from the previous year (before the change to his bonus structure).

The court held it was not unreasonable for Mosey to refuse the Lally’s job offer which did not include this severance guarantee, nor was it unreasonable for him to turn down or pass over other car-sales jobs and hold out for a managerial-type position. The court held that a notice period of one year was appropriate.

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