The 2015 cases that changed employment law

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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.

“In this case, Christian Drimba was never actually fired,” reveals Levitt. “He was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died three months later – you’d think there’d be no wrongful dismissal damages there but the estate sued anyway.”

Remarkably, the estate won – but why?

According to Levitt, the case actually makes perfect sense.
“The court said that before Drimba died he became terminally ill, there was no prospect of him ever returning to the workplace and therefore the contract of employment was frustrated so he should have been paid severance,” explains Levitt.

The concept of “frustration,” Levitt says, is crucial to the case.
“Normally, here’s how the concept of frustration goes,” he explains.

“Generally, if you’re fired it’s a human rights breach as well as a wrongful dismissal – but if you’ve been sick for a long time and you’re never going to be able to return to work, the court says the contract has been frustrated.

“You don’t get fully blown wrongful dismissal damages but you get employment standards severance and termination pay,” he continued.
Levitt says past cases normally come down to employers arguing that a contract has been frustrated because that would mean the company only has to pay less dues.

“In this case, Christian Drimba was never fired, he got terminally ill and was never going to return to work. The courts looked back after at it and said the contract was frustrated at the point he became terminally ill so therefore they ruled Drimba had effectively been fired even though the company didn’t actually fire him by conduct.

As a result, Dick Engineering was forced to pay termination severance under the Employment Standards Act.

Wilson v. Atomic Energy  

This May decision marked a huge change in the rights of federally regulated employees, says Levitt.

(Continued...)

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