Mega-award in mega-city merger

Gismondi v. Toronto (City) (2002) 16 C.C.E.L. (3d) 97 (Ont. S.C.J.)

Gismondi was a professional engineer who had been working for the City of North York for 20 years when the various cities comprising metropolitan Toronto merged, making many positions surplus. Guidelines were developed and put in place in order to ensure a fair process with respect to competitions for jobs in the new mega-city. Gismondi applied for the position of manager of road operations and was granted an interview.

Gismondi was not chosen to fill the position. His employment was terminated and he received a separation package pursuant to a program by which displaced employees were given a separation payment of four weeks for every year of completed service to a maximum of 96 weeks. Group benefits were extended for the same period of time while pension contributions were continued to a maximum of 52 weeks.

Gismondi’s action for damages for wrongful dismissal was allowed and the court awarded him 116 weeks’ salary in lieu of notice. The quantum of damages included an addition to the notice period in accordance with the principles in Wallace.

The court held the city had “dropped the ball” by failing to apply its own fair, open and equitable hiring criteria uniformly across the board. Gismondi had asked at the end of his interview whether his previous performance appraisals would be reviewed and his references contacted. He was told the panel would consider “all relevant matters.” But none of his references were ever contacted even though the panel did speak with the references of the successful candidate.

The court found the city had effectively treated Gismondi, “in a manner different from other candidates” which, although not malevolent or egregious, entitled him to a lengthening of the period of reasonable notice in accordance with the principles laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Wallace.

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