The 2015 cases that changed employment law

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While the law is rarely black and white, it’s often possible to predict the outcome of a case by analysing similar lawsuits from the past – that is until a shock ruling comes along, upending everything HR professionals have come to expect.

Leading labour and employment lawyer Howard Levitt told HRM that there have been four such cases in 2015. Here, he offers his expert explanation of what they mean moving forward.

Fredrickson v. Newtech Dental Laboratory

With the decision handed down in February, the Fredrickson case was the first of the year to change employment law as we know it.

According to Levitt, the case takes a fresh spin on the infamous 2014 case of Evans v. Teamsters, in which an employee lost his wrongful dismissal case because he didn’t accept his former employer’s offer of reemployment.

In the end, former-union worker Evans was only awarded damages for the period of time between his initial firing and subsequent job offer. In contrast, the Fredrickson case differs significantly.

In this case, employee Fredrickson was also offered reemployment after she filed for wrongful dismissal but since she had been ousted from the organization, Fredrickson had discovered that not only had her boss been recording their private conversations without informing her, he had also discussed confidential employment matters with a subordinate.

“The court said in that context, that she had reasonably lost trust in her employer and if a company acts in a way that the employee loses trust in them then the employee doesn’t have to come back to work,” said Levitt.

“The company was not able to deprive of her of her wrongful dismissal damages by offering her job back because it also acted in a way that was sufficiently reprehensible that she realistically said; ‘I’ve lost trust, I’m not returning,’” he told HRM.

“She didn’t return and she won her wrongful dismissal case.”

Drimba v. Dick Engineering

Next to make a major impact was the morose case between the estate of Christian Drimba and Dick Engineering, which concluded in March.

(Continued...)

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