Drug charge no reason to fire

Charges were stayed

An operations manager accused of conspiring to traffic in narcotics has won more than $96,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal. Although the Crown had stayed the charges against Thomas Robinson, Fraser Wharves maintained for a full year that it had been entitled to dismiss him for cause.

In doing so, it relied solely on what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had told its principals when the police came to arrest Robinson: after a long investigation, they suspected that he had been involved in drug activities based at Fraser Wharves. Robinson explained that he had been duped into certain activities by his brother, but no one at Fraser Wharves listened.

This was all the more surprising because, at 42, he had worked his way up at Fraser from yard supervisor to operations manager, a senior management job. He had been with Fraser for more than a decade.

Because Robinson had only a high-school education and a few post-secondary courses, and given that his job experience was mostly in Fraser’s automobile distribution business, the British Columbia Supreme Court has held that his chances of finding comparable employment were “impaired.” At trial time, he had been unable to find any work beyond the occasional sales job.

The court awarded Robinson 15 months’ damages in lieu of proper notice, plus an extra three for bad-faith dismissal. “An employer,” Justice Valmond Romilly has ruled, “cannot blithely make serious allegations against an employee of illegal conduct and dishonesty, without giving the employee an opportunity to answer those allegations.

“Moreover,...an employer must at least examine the validity of allegations against an employee before reaching conclusions devastating to an employee’s reputation.”

While Justice Romilly concedes that some of Robinson’s mental upset would have arisen from the criminal charges, he holds that Fraser’s long insistence that it had cause at least exacerbated Robinson's problems.

For more information:

Robinson v. Fraser Wharves Ltd., Vancouver registry no. C983408, Feb./00.

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