A B.C. employer has recently been hit with a significant damage
award related to the termination of a long service employee. The
court found two major problems: a flawed investigation and an
This week, we look at the investigation.
Stephanie Vernon spent her entire working life – 30
years from the age of 19 – working for the Liquor
Distribution Branch. She became a manager, known for her aggressive
style and demanding ways, but her performance reviews were
exemplary. There had never been a complaint against her, she had
never received any warning about her management style, and several
employees credited her with their success in careers with the
A particularly sensitive employee made a complaint about Ms.
Vernon. The employer did an investigation, but the court found it
to be "flawed from beginning to end" and "neither
objective nor fair".
According to the court, the investigation was flawed because
it was conducted by the person who was also the advisor to Ms.
Vernon on labour relations matters;
Ms. Vernon was surprised that she was being investigated,
rather than meeting with her advisor about the complaint;
the investigator sided with the Complainant from the
the investigator inaccurately summarized the interview in key
respects, and those summaries were relied on by her superiors;
other interviews were interrogations, and statements of support
for Ms. Vernon were met with yelling and accusations of lying.
The flawed investigation was the basis for a decision to
terminate. Next week, we will look at the problems with how the
termination was carried out.
[Vernon v. British Columbia (Liquor Distribution
Branch), 2012 BCSC 133]
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).