A wrongfully dismissed courier has won a lawsuit at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. In Hollander v. Tiger Courier Inc. (2014) SKCA 7, the courier was dismissed when a package of marijuana was delivered to the office addressed to him. He claimed it was not his package and he had no knowledge of it. The employer called the police but no charges were laid. However, the employer terminated the courier and alleged that it had just cause. It was not clear from the decision what happened to the pot, but presumably the police confiscated it.
The case had an unfortunate twist. The courier had worked as an employee with the company for ten years. But after that, he had become an “independent contractor” and worked in that capacity for three years before this incident occurred. He had signed an independent contractor agreement that provided for thirty days’ notice of any dismissal (without cause).
When the courier was wrongfully dismissed, he sued for breach of contract but he did not sue for wrongful dismissal. He did not claim that he was really an “employee,” nor did he directly challenge the independent contractor agreement, although he claimed other damages flowing from breach of contract. If the courier had been able to challenge the contract and prove “wrongful dismissal,” he might have been awarded a year’s pay or more.
However, he only alleged “breach of contract.” As a result, the courier put himself in a situation where if were to win his lawsuit, he would win thirty days’ pay, as required under his contract. If he were to lose, he would get nothing.
At trial, the lower court judge held that the package of pot, that had been sent to the courier from his brother in Vancouver, was “clear evidence of illegal or criminal conduct” and this would justify termination, even though no criminal charges were ever laid.
The Court of Appeal disagreed. It overturned this finding and ruled that there was no clear evidence that the courier himself had engaged in any criminal or other misconduct. Just because a family member delivers a package of illegal drugs to a person’s workplace, this does not mean that the person has engaged in any improper activity..or at least there is no clear evidence of such misconduct.
However, the Court of Appeal went on to award damages of only thirty days’ compensation, which amounted to the grand total of $2,973.70. This was really a pyrrhic victory for the plaintiff. He lost his courier job and got only 30 days’ compensation after 13 years of work. He also lost the pot, which may well have been worth close to the amount of the judgment. And we haven’t even mentioned legal fees…