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School director sues for wrongful termination, wins settlement

When an employee takes a leave of absence with his or her employer's consent, it is expected that the employee will be able to return to his or her position at the end of the leave. Failure to allow for that return may constitute wrongful termination. A case that involved a woman working in the public sector, a major employment area in Ontario, was recently wrapped up on the west coast.

A former director at Kwantlen Polytechnic University took leave from her job in order to further her education in 2013. In March 2016, she attempted to return to her position; however, the university released her without cause, evidently due to restructuring at the school. The woman sued her former employer, and the case went to the provincial Supreme Court.

The court heard that the defendant had offered to pay the plaintiff for 10 months, including salary and benefits, provided she made a reasonable effort to seek new employment. The defendant further stipulated if she found work in the public sector at a lower rate of pay than what she was previously earning, she would be paid the difference between her new salary and her old one -- up to a 10-month limit. If she were to be hired into the private sector, the defendant would pay a lump sum of 50 percent of the remaining balance upon her first day of work. Though the plaintiff rejected the offer, the university made the payments anyway.

The woman was hired at another school on June 1, 2016, at which point the defendant ceased payments. In his decision, the judge agreed the woman was wrongfully dismissed, but that the defendant's obligation to pay was not over until June 16, 2016, when she went from part-time to full-time employment. He noted the defendant had paid the woman until June 1, and further awarded her eight days pay to cover the time period between June 1 and June 16.

In the end, though she did not accept the defendant's original offer, the plaintiff was able to recoup the money owed to her for the period she was employed part-time. Wrongful termination cases can be complicated matters, and attention needs to be paid to every detail of any agreements or contracts that may exist. Working with an Ontario law firm that has handled similar suits might help an individual make sense of his or her situation and enable the pursuit of an appropriate settlement.

Source: The Now, "Judge settles court case involving Kwantlen Polytechnic University and former employee", Tom Zytaruk, Nov. 7, 2016

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