Fired worker awarded wages until he turns 65

Arbitrator awards unionized worker, 58, wages until retirement because company had no cause to fire him and refused to reinstate him

An Ontario employer has been ordered to pay a 58-year-old unionized worker it fired without cause wages until he turns 65.

Dave Dorogi was fired from his job as a general labourer with Presteve Foods Ltd. in Wheatley, Ont., on Dec. 27, 2005. He filed a grievance through his union, the Canadian Auto Workers, that there was no cause for this disciplinary action. He had five years’ seniority, which made him the most senior hourly worker, and was also the union steward.

At the arbitration hearing, Luis Resendes, a supervisor at Presteve Foods, appeared on behalf of the company. He had only two messages for the arbitrator in his brief opening statements.

First, the company had no proof whatsoever nor any valid argument to provide just cause for dismissal. The second was that the owner of the company wanted to make it clear that he would not allow Dorogi back onto company property.

Faced with this information, Arbitrator Joseph Samuels said he had no alternative but to rule in favour of the worker.

“(Dorogi) would normally be reinstated to his position, but this was totally impractical in view of the company’s adamant refusal to allow (him) back on the property,” said Arbitrator Samuels. “So I must put (Dorogi) into the financial position he would have been in had he been reinstated.”

Based on Dorogi’s testimony, the arbitrator said the worker had lost 720 hours of work, at $13.10 per hour, for a total of $9,432. It ordered Presteve Foods to pay that amount immediately.

But where the decision gets interesting is when Arbitrator Samuels decided what the penalty would be for Presteve Foods for refusing to allow the worker back on company property.

The arbitrator ordered the company to compensate Dorogi for lost wages and benefits under the collective agreement as if he had been reinstated until his normal retirement date at age 65. However, he said Dorogi had an obligation to make an “earnest” effort to find other work and the earnings from this other work would be deducted from what was owed to him by Presteve Foods.

If Dorogi is able to find suitable work, then the company’s obligations would be over, the arbitrator said.

For more information see:

Presteve Foods Ltd. and Canadian Automobile Workers Union, Local 444 (CAW-Marine Division), Heard in Windsor April 19, 2006 (Samuels).

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