Golf club not on par in it’s treatment of groundskeeper

Levy v. Ken-Wo Country Club, 2001 CarswellNS 200 (N.S. S.C.)

At issue in this case was the right of a long-term seasonal employee to reasonable notice upon termination of employment. Orville Levy had been employed by the Ken-Wo Country Club as a full-time groundskeeper from 1975 until 1999. Each year, Levy would work from April until November when he would be laid off until he was recalled to work the following spring.

Levy did not look for other full-time seasonal work while he was laid off, and would collect Employment Insurance during this time. Similarly, Ken-Wo expected that Levy would return to work each season and would simply call him with a few days notice before he started back in April. In January 1999 Levy was told he would not be recalled for work for the spring of 1999. He started an action for damages for wrongful dismissal.

Ken-Wo took the position that Levy was only a seasonal employee with no right of recall each year and therefore his employment could be terminated at any time. The court rejected this position, holding that Levy was an indefinite-term employee whose employment could not be terminated without reasonable notice. The reasons cited by the court in support of its decision were that:

•Mr. Levy had worked as a full-time grounds keeper for Ken-Wo for 24 years;

•he was laid off and recalled each year on a regular and consistent basis;

•each year Levy expected to be recalled and received assurances that this would occur;

•the expectation of recall was mutual as Ken-Wo also expected that Levy would be waiting and willing to return to work each year with only a few days notice.

The court held Levy could not be construed as simply a seasonal employee who could be dismissed or not recalled to work at the discretion of Ken-Wo. He was entitled to reasonable notice that Ken-Wo would not be recalling him for the 1999 season. Based on Levy’s age, his length of service and his exemplary service record, the court held that an appropriate period of notice would be one season in order to allow Levy a reasonable opportunity to obtain alternative employment.

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