The office manager and bookkeeper for a union local was recently awarded damages of $240,000 because her termination breached whistleblower protections in the Saskatchewan Labour Standards Act.
The employee was terminated for reporting to the union president that her supervisors were misappropriating funds. The Supreme Court of Canada found she was entitled to whistleblower protection because her complaints to the president were complaints to a “lawful authority” as required under the Act. The issue of remedy under the Act was then remitted to the trial judge, who ordered the union to reinstate the employee and to pay her $160,000 in lost wages and pension contributions as well as interest, costs, and reimbursement of expenses. On further appeal, the union argued that the employee’s wage loss was caused by a medical inability to work. The Court rejected this argument on the basis that the union’s conduct contributed to her illness.
Although BC does not have statutory protections for whistleblowers comparable to the Saskatchewan Act, employers should be aware that whistleblower claims can be brought under the common law, at arbitration or under section 425.1 of the Criminal Code. Therefore, employers should be aware of their potential liability in this regard.