A recent B.C. Supreme Court decision shows the importance of having clear, consistent policies and procedures to prevent HR decisions being turned over in a hearing.
Guiyun Ogden started working for CIBC in 2004, eventually building a portfolio of $233 million working primarily with Chinese clients. She was consistently a top performer.
In 2010 she received an urgent call from a client whose house purchase was going to fall through without an immediate transfer of funds. In the middle of the night, Ogden accepted a wire transfer from China into her personal account, then transfered the funds to the client's account the next day. Court documents show Ogden did not personally benefit from the transfer and other than being sent through her personal account the process was consistent with bank practice.
The transaction did not come to light for another six months. CIBC terminated Ogden based on having given her a final warning for incidents that happened after the wire transfer. She was fired for alleged conflict of interest and breaches of policy.
However, the court found Ogden had simply made an error in judgment and that the employer did not give her a full opportunity to explain. It also determined that there was a lack of clarity, training and consistency in its policies and procedures, and a flawed investigation. Finally, the court concluded the wire transfer incident could be the final incident for cumulative cause because it preceded the final warning Ogden received.
The court found that Ogden's career in financial services was ruined and that she suffered emotional harm. It cited "cavalier, insensitive and reckless" conduct by the employer in its investigation and resulting termination of Ms. Ogden and ordered damages for breach of contract and aggravated damages to be assessed in another trial.