Court of Appeal upholds termination of pregnant worker

Worker fired during maternity leave after employer discovered $70,000 in invoices had not been processed

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has upheld a lower-court ruling that an employer had the right to dismiss a pregnant worker who had failed process $70,000 in invoices before starting her pregnancy leave.

Karen Palmer began maternity leave in January 2002. The employer, Godfrey Associates Ltd. in Saint John, N.B., found out about the deception in February but waited until December to dismiss her. Palmer argued the employer had condoned the behaviour during her maternity leave because it waited so long to terminate her. But the lower court said the fact the employer delayed confronting Palmer during her maternity leave did not amount to condonation.

“The reason (she) was not dismissed until Dec. 17, 2002, was out of kindness for her situation with a new baby and consideration that for other reasons she might decide not to return to work,” the lower court said. “In the unusual circumstances of this case, in my view, (the employer) did not breach any legal duty to Mrs. Palmer by acting as gently and slowly as he did in exercising his unpleasant right to dismiss her.”

Palmer appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal found nothing wrong with the lower court’s ruling. It dismissed the appeal and awarded the employer $2,500 in costs.

Stuart Rudner, an employment lawyer with Miller Thomson in Toronto, wrote about the original decision in the Sept. 1, 2004, issue of Canadian Employment Law Today. (To view the article, click on the "related articles" link below.)

For more information see:

Palmer v. Godfrey Associates Ltd., 2005 CarswellNB 766 (N.B. C.A.)

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