Company wrongfully dismissed new manager but didn’t lure him from old job, says court

Manager wasn't trained in how to run a unionized environment but coming over was his own decision

An Ontario company wrongfully dismissed a senior manager six months after hiring him but didn’t induce him from his previous employment, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled.

Walter Laszczewski, 49, received an unsolicited phone call from an executive recruiter offering him a job with Aluminart Products in December 2005. He had been with his old employer for seven years and wasn’t interested in moving. However, the recruiter continued to call Laszczewski and he eventually became interested in the chance to grow with Aluminart.

On Feb. 3, 2006, Laszczewski met with Aluminart’s president and was shown a contract. After some discussion, Laszczewski signed it, despite the fact it included a statement saying he had sought legal advice. He began working for Aluminart on Feb. 20. Three months later, he was appointed the director of production at the company’s Brampton, Ont., plant.

Laszczewski had never worked in a unionized environment before and Aluminart didn’t give him any training other than a copy of the collective agreement. On July 25, 2006, HR told him an employee couldn’t lift doors from the production line because of back and shoulder injuries. However, he also heard the worker could perform the work for a short time. Laszczewski asked the worker to do it for as long as he felt comfortable but the worker was injured and Aluminart filed a warning report for disobedience in Laszczewski’s file.

Over the next couple of months, there were four more incidents at the plant where Laszczewski had problems with staff stemming from his supervisory style. Warning reports were prepared for all but one of them but weren’t shown to him. The other was undocumented.

On Sept. 7, Laszczewski poked a worker with a cardboard die cut. The worker complained to HR, who considered it “the last straw.” HR met with him the following day and told him he was being let go because of restructuring. Aluminart said it didn’t tell him the real reason for his dismissal because it didn’t want any “ill will,” though it testified the incidents were just cause for dismissal.

The court found though warning reports were prepared for five of the incidents, only one or two were actually shown to him. It also found each of the incidents by themselves weren’t cause for dismissal.

Aluminart’s written discipline policy specified progressive disciplinary steps including verbal and written warnings followed by increasing suspensions, fines and then dismissal.

“Aluminart did not follow its own written policies when it dealt with Laszczewski,” the court said. “Progressive discipline was not even attempted and a number of complaints were not even mentioned to (him).”

The court also said Aluminart didn’t give Laszczewski proper training for the unionized environment, which contributed to his problems. This lack of training and failure to follow its own discipline policies led to wrongful dismissal.

However, the court didn’t find Laszczewski had been lured as he was eager to join Aluminart and didn’t perform proper diligence when he signed the contract. He was awarded four months’ pay minus one week’s worth he already received, for a total of $33,294.86. See Laszczewski v. Aluminart Products Ltd., 2007 CarswellOnt 8204 (Ont. S.C.J.).

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