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Letter Criticizing Supervisor Found Insubordinate
August 29, 2008

The plaintiff worked for a government-funded society where she reported to the executive director. The plaintiff and the executive director had a work related conflict which resulted in the plaintiff taking medical leave. The plaintiff wrote a letter to the society’s board of directors setting out the difficulties she faced, criticizing the executive director, and complaining that her ability to do her job had been compromised.

After receiving the letter, the society took the position that the plaintiff had resigned. The plaintiff sued for wrongful dismissal.

The Court held that the plaintiff did not resign since the letter was simply a formal complaint about the problems she was experiencing in the workplace. However, the Court went on to find that the letter did gave rise to just cause for immediate dismissal because the contents were inaccurate and exaggerated, disrespectful and inflammatory in tone and language, and because it was sent to the society’s board of directors without first giving the executive director an opportunity to deal with the problems raised or to make an effort to salvage his working relationship with the plaintiff. The Court found that both the content of the letter and the manner in which the plaintiff brought her complaints to the board’s attention constituted a fundamental breach of her trust relationship with the executive director, which effectively ended the employment relationship.

Van Der Meij v. Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre Society, 2008 BCSC 954