The BC Supreme Court recently awarded a terminated employee a total of 28 months severance and damages for wrongful dismissal. At the time of his dismissal, the plaintiff was a 53 year old senior manager with ten years of service. His employment contract provided for a severance payment of twelve months without prejudice to his right to seek “additional notice according to his rights at common law.”
When the plaintiff brought an action for wrongful dismissal, he argued that the contract provided him with the right to recover common law damages in addition to his contractual right to twelve months severance pay. The employer argued the twelve month provision represented a minimum and that the contract only provided a right to claim damages beyond the minimum.
The court found that the language of the employment contract was ambiguous. However, on the evidence, the court determined that the plaintiff was entitled to both common law damages and severance under the contract. As a result, the court awarded the plaintiff a total of 28 months: 16 months damages including salary, car allowance, pension contributions, as well as bonus and share options, in addition to 12 months severance.
This case underscores the importance of using precise language when drafting employment contracts.