Evidence contradictory

When Patrick Foy and his wife, Ellen Foy, were dismissed from their positions with Rothwell Foods Ltd., they brought an action for wrongful dismissal. They alleged that there was no cause for dismissal and the notice period was insufficient.

At the time of his dismissal Patrick Foy had been employed with Rothwell Foods for 14 years as the manager of the meat department at the Tumbler Ridge, B.C., store. Mrs. Foy had also been employed for 14 years but on a part-time basis. Over the years Mrs. Foy held several positions including meat wrapper and cashier.

As a result of a decline in sales due to closure of nearby mines, Rothwell was forced to reduce its workforce. In March 1999 both Mr. and Mrs. Foy were given eight weeks’ lay-off notice. Mr. Foy claimed that he was entitled to 15 months’ notice of termination, and Mrs. Foy claimed that she was entitled to 10 months’ notice. In support of his claim, Mr. Foy alleged that he was induced to leave secure employment in Trail, B.C., to move to Tumbler Ridge for his position as meat manager.

The Court gave little weight to the inducement factor. The Court accepted that Mr. Foy was attracted to employment at Rothwell Foods by Mr. Rothwell’s statements to him regarding the salary and bonus he would be paid, the opportunity to save money living in Tumbler Ridge, the likelihood of long-term stable employment with the understanding that he could leave after five years, and the availability of part-time employment for his wife.

The Court also accepted that the understanding between Mr. Foy and Mr. Rothwell was that Mr. Foy “would try it out” for at least five years and that he had a job so long as Mr. Rothwell was managing the store in Tumbler Ridge. Furthermore Mr. Foy did not expect to be dismissed in 1999.

Despite this the Court also recognized that Mr. Foy was not given the guarantee of lifetime employment, and after 15 years the inducements that brought him to the job did not have the same significance as when he was first hired by Rothwell Foods.

The Court held that Mr. Foy was entitled to 12 months’ notice of termination and that Mrs. Foy was entitled to three months. Rothwell argued that these notice periods should be reduced because of Mr. Foy’s failure to properly mitigate his damages.

Mr. Rothwell argued that Mr. Foy was offered a different position with Rothwell Foods, at its store in Chetwynd, B.C., as meat manager. By refusing to accept this position, it was argued that he failed to properly mitigate his damages.

The evidence was contradictory as to when the offer of employment in Chetwynd was made. Mr. Foy testified that the position was offered to him five or six years prior to his dismissal. Mr. Rothwell admitted that there was no reference to a position in Chetwynd in Mr. Foy’s letter of termination or at the time the notice was issued.

However Mr. Rothwell testified that he had spoken to Mr. Foy on a number of occasions about the position in Chetwynd. He further testified that Mr. Foy knew that if he wanted the job in Chetwynd, he could have it.

The Court held that no offer of employment in Chetwynd was made when Mr. Foy was given his notice of termination. As such the amount awarded for reasonable notice was not reduced for failure to properly mitigate.

For more information:

Foy v. Rothwell Foods Ltd., 2001 BCSC 1145.

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