In a recent Ontario Superior Court decision, Hussain v. Suzuki Canada Ltd., a long service employee was awarded 26 months’ compensation as damages for wrongful dismissal.
The dismissed employee, Syed Hussain, was an assistant warehouse supervisor. He had worked for the defendant Suzuki Canada for almost 36 years. This had been his only full time job after immigrating to Canada from India in 1974. Hussain was almost 65 at the time he was dismissed in February 2011, due to corporate restructuring.
After losing his job, Mr. Hussain took a period of time to get over the shock and to organize his efforts to find new employment. He then applied to some 27 positions by July 2011, though his efforts were unsuccessful.
Justice Roberts, writing on behalf of the Court, noted that 24 months is usually the high end of wrongful dismissal awards. However, the Court held that Mr. Hussain was entitled to 26 months’ compensation due to the particular factors of his situation including his lengthy service, his age and other related factors. The Court held that Mr. Hussain was entitled to benefits, RRSP contributions, and a discretionary bonus throughout the entire 26 month period.
Even though this wrongful dismissal case was decided only 10 months after Mr. Hussain was dismissed, the Court still awarded Mr. Hussain 25.5 months’ compensation and reduced the total notice period by only 1% for the contingent possibility that Mr. Hussain could find new employment over the remaining 16 months.
Finally, the Court ordered Suzuki Canada to reimburse Mr. Suzuki for almost $20,000 in legal fees.
This decision follows on the heels of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Di Tomaso v. Crown Metal Packaging, a case in which a long service mechanic was awarded 22 months’ notice in June 2011.
It is becoming quite evident in Ontario that long service employees are now entitled to notice periods at the higher end of the range, regardless of the type of position that the person held or the salary level that the employee enjoyed.
This trend is good news for Canadian employees, particularly long service employees who are not employeed in upper management positions. Although for many years, the longest notice periods were usually awarded by courts only to the most senior employees in wrongful dismissal cases, that is now no longer an accurate summary of the law. Age will still be a relevant consideration. Employees who are dismissed after 20 years of service but are still in their 40’s may not be awarded the maximum amounts. But dismissed employees in their 50’s and 60’s with many years of service will now all have a chance to obtain compensation of close to two years’ pay.