Dismissed worker fails in ‘double-dipping’ civil suit

Worker received wrongful dismissal damages already

A British Columbia worker who won pay in lieu of notice for her accidental termination of employment has failed in her attempt to win further damages in a civil suit.

Tammy Kay Hall was hired by Labour Ready Temporary Services, a U.S.-based employment agency with offices in Vancouver and other B.C. cities, in March 2006. Her position was customer service representative and she signed an employment contract that stipulated if she was dismissed without cause, she was entitled to no more than notice or pay in lieu of notice set out in “the applicable employment standards legislation.”

In August 2006, Hall was promoted to branch manager and signed another employment contract with the same termination clause.

Hall’s tenure with Labour Ready continued without any major problems for the next few years. However, in March 2014, Hall requested a medical leave of absence. She had been injured in a motor vehicle accident two years earlier and she was scheduled for surgery on March 28. Her surgery was postponed, so Hall continued to work until May 24, when she finally took medical leave.

Hall remained on medical leave for more than a year. In April 2015, about 11 months after she had gone off work, there was a misunderstanding and Labour Ready believed Hall had resigned from her employment. The company proceeded with its normal administrative steps to end Hall’s employment.

When Hall learned of the mistake, she contacted the company and said she hadn’t intended to resign and wanted to remain an employee. Labour Ready apologized and immediately reinstated her to active employment effective April 28, 2015.

However, Hall was displeased about the mistake and filed a complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch, saying she had been dismissed without cause and had not been provided with the proper notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice to which she was entitled under the province’s Employment Standards Act.

A delegate of the Director of the Employment Standards Branch found Hall had in fact been terminated without cause. Labour Ready was ordered to pay Hall appropriate pay in lieu of notice under the act, along with vacation pay, interest, and a $500 administrative penalty.

Labour Ready complied with the delegate’s order and paid Hall in February 2016.

Fourteen months later, in April 2017, Hall filed a suit in the B.C. Supreme Court. Her statement of claim alleged that Labour Ready wrongfully terminated her “due to disability and no notice provided” and she sought two months’ pay for each of her nine years of service — totalling more than $78,000 — plus $15,000 for loss of benefits and undue hardship.

The court found that Hall’s claim was brief and missing a substantial amount of information to support her claim. Though she may have been trying to accuse Labour Ready of breach of contract and wrongful dismissal, her short statement of claim contained “conclusions of law without any material facts in support” — such as the “wrongfully terminated due to disability” statement. It was not Hall’s place to make such findings, only the court`s after hearing the evidence. And Hall didn’t provide any evidence to back up such statements, said the court.

The court found that the only legal “fact” in Hall’s statement of claim was “no notice provided.” However, this factual statement wasn’t enough to support a cause of action.

The court noted that B.C.’s Civil Rules require a civil claim to “set out the material facts giving rise to her claim.” Hall’s brief statement of claim contained only one fact — no notice provided. The others were unsupported and without actual facts, as there was nothing to support the allegation of wrongful dismissal because of a disability.

The court also found that even if Hall presented facts supporting a claim of wrongful dismissal based on disability, this would have related to discrimination based on a protected ground under the B.C. Human Rights Code. The code stipulates discrimination complaints based on protected grounds should be filed with the province’s Human Rights Tribunal, not in court, said the court.

“The Human Rights Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all complaints of prohibited employment discrimination within the province,” said the court. “This court has no jurisdiction to determine whether the alleged wrongful termination of (Hall) was allegedly due to disability.”

In addition, the court agreed with Labour Ready’s assertion that Hall’s civil claim was an attempt to obtain compensation for wrongful dismissal twice. Hall already received an award from the Employment Standards Branch for pay in lieu of notice, and she seemed to be “improperly double-dipping with this cause of action,” said the court.

The court saw no way Hall’s civil claim could succeed and dismissed it.

See Hall v. Trueblue, DBA Labour Ready, 2017 CarswellBC 3052 (B.C. S.C.).

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