The plaintiff Soost was summarily dismissed from his position as
a financial advisor by the defendant Merrill Lynch Canada Inc.
Three years prior the plaintiff had received a generous package of
inducements to commence employment with the defendant, and the
value of his book of business that he transferred to the defendant
was between $70 and $80 million.
The plaintiff's employment contract specified that he was
expected to comply with all relevant regulatory authorities in
addition to the defendant's policies. The defendant alleged,
amongst other things, that the plaintiff's failure to obtain
management approval for his private placement activities and
continued solicitation of a stock contrary to the defendant's
direction constituted just cause for dismissal. The plaintiff
alleged that the defendant's private placement policy had never
been strictly adhered to within the company and that none of his
actions justified dismissal. After the defendant decided to
terminate the plaintiff, the decision was not executed for 2 weeks.
Upon dismissal, the plaintiff was unable to persuade many of his
clients to his new employer and subsequently left the industry.
The issue was whether the defendant had proved there was
sufficient basis to summarily dismiss the plaintiff.
The Court found that none of the defaults it addressed either
singly or in combination were sufficient to justify summary
dismissal of the plaintiff. The court did find some merit or
substance to some of the alleged grounds for dismissal but not to
others. The plaintiff was awarded damages in lieu of notice of
$600,000 and additional damages of $1.6 million for injury to
reputation and goodwill.
Of particular significance to the Court was the fact that the
defendant waited 14 days to execute its decision to dismiss the
plaintiff for cause. This delay was interpreted by the Court to
imply that immediate action was not required and that there was no
reason why the defendant could not have provided the plaintiff with
minimal notice or allowed him to resign of his own accord.
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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.
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.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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