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Harris & Company Scores Wins for Two Municipalities
December 27, 2006

Harris & Company lawyers recently represented two municipalities which were successful in wrongful dismissal actions. In judgments issued December 8, 2006, the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed claims against both the District of North Vancouver and the City of Abbotsford.

Submitting False Car Allowance Cause for Dismissal

In the case against the District of North Vancouver, the court held that the District had just cause to dismiss a senior manager after he submitted a false claim for a car allowance.

The plaintiff had worked for the District for six years. He received an automobile allowance based on the assumption that he was travelling a stipulated number of kilometres for work each week. He testified that he believed the allowance to be a “perk” of his position. Based on this assumption, he had never kept any records of the use of his vehicle for work-related purposes.

When the District performed an audit in 2004, it requested a copy of his log. Rather than admit that he had no logs to submit, he created and provided a false log. Later, when questioned about irregularities with his log, he blamed his secretary.

The court found that the District had just cause to dismiss the plaintiff. He had fundamentally violated the trust that his senior management position required by knowingly submitting a false car allowance claim and then blaming his secretary.

Zerr v. District of North Vancouver, 2006 BCSC 1819

Senior Manager not Constructively Dismissed

In the case against the City of Abbotsford, the court ruled that the City did not constructively dismiss a senior manager when it restructured his division to accommodate a new budget process.

The plaintiff was employed as the City’s manager of budget and financial systems. In order to accommodate a new budget process, the City decided to merge the plaintiff’s division with another. The changes meant that the plaintiff would now report to the head of the other division, a former colleague, and would lose responsibility for his division, which consisted of himself and one other employee.

The plaintiff refused to accept the changes and filed an action for constructive dismissal. He alleged that the City’s restructuring would diminish his involvement in budget matters and lessen the prestige of his position. He alleged that these changes, coupled with the merger of his division and the change in his reporting status, amounted to a fundamental change to his position.

The court dismissed the claim. It concluded that the change to the budget process was only a change in the way the plaintiff was to do his job, rather than a change in the job itself. The plaintiff would have retained the same responsibilities.

The court held that the remaining changes – the loss of the plaintiff’s division and the change in reporting status – did not go to the root of his employment contract and accordingly held that he had not been constructively dismissed.

Trueman v. City of Abbotsford, 2006 BCSC 1820