Alberta Human Rights Commission defends sacking of lawyer

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The Alberta Human Rights Commission says that it was right to fire a lawyer because he breached government policy regarding free legal work which included a case against the provincial government.

Arman Chak from Edmonton was working for the Commission until he was called into a meeting in November last year and was fired. He filed a lawsuit in January 2015 claiming that he was wrongfully dismissed and also claiming defamation.

In February CBC reported that no defence had been filed by the Commission and that no reason had been given for the lawyer’s dismissal. That has now changed says the broadcaster.

In response to Chak’s $3.5 million lawsuit the Commission says that he undertook “supplemental employment” which “involved the unauthorized use of time, government premises, equipment and supplies." It is claimed that one of the cases involved giving free legal representation in an action against the Albertan government.

None of the claims of either side had been proven in court.

CBC reports that court documents include a memo suggesting that Chak and the Commission’s executive director Dan Smallbrook did not have a good working relationship.

The case is further complicated by the opinion of Chak’s boss, senior legal counsel Audrey Dean who has distanced herself from the defence stating that she had “nothing to do with this unfair and irrational termination of employment” and that she was just out of hospital when she heard that the lawyer had been dismissed.

The exact details of the employee’s contract is not clear in this case and is a matter for the court; however it does raise the general issue of contracts making clear what additional work an employee may or may not do. Sometimes what is deemed to be ‘industry practice’ for example may not be desirable by the employer and needs to be addressed in the contract.  

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