Summary judgment for damages OK in straightforward case: Court

22-year employee given 16 weeks' severance but court ruled 16 months was more appropriate

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has awarded 16 months’ pay and benefits in lieu of notice for a 22-year employee who was downsized as part of her employer’s cost-cutting measures.

Dolores Adjemian, 48, was an information and technology administrator, accounts payable clerk and inventory receiving clerk for Brook Crompton North America, a Toronto-based manufacturer of electric motors. She worked for Brook Crompton for more than 22 years.

In 2007 and early 2008, Brook Crompton went through difficult economic times and had to downsize its staff. Adjemian was one of the employees let go, though the company felt she was a good employee and provided her with favourable reference letters. Adjemian was also paid her 16 weeks’ salary as severance and continued her benefits for four months.

Adjemian filed for wrongful dismissal, claiming because of her length of service she deserved a larger notice period than 16 weeks. She also filed a motion for summary judgment because her service time, nature of employment and requested notice period were straightforward issues that could be decided without a lengthy trial.

The court agreed the issues were straightforward as Brook Crompton didn’t dispute her 22 years of service nor her position with the company. As a result, the court felt a cross-examination wasn’t necessary and the only issue to be decided was the proper notice period for an employee of such a term of service. The court also said it wouldn’t be otherwise unjust to decide the issues with such a judgment, which is another requirement to proceed with summary decisions.

Finally, the court dismissed Brook Crompton’s argument that Adjemian’s attempts at mitigation should be heard in a full trial. She had presented documentation she had applied for 120 jobs with nine interviews since her firing.

The court found 16 months was an appropriate notice period and ordered Brook Crompton to pay her salary, benefits, pension contribution and annual bonus during that period. Minus the 16 weeks of salary and benefits already paid as severance, the total damages award was $61,944.65. This was reduced to the summary judgment maximum of $50,000, plus more than $14,000 in costs. See Adjemian v. Brook Crompton North America, 2008 ONCA 882 (Ont. S.C.J.).

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