Not every wrongful dismissal case involves six-figure amounts or sets a new precedent.
A recent case out of a British Columbia smalls claim court is interesting from the angle of how smaller claims are litigated and decided.
Caroline So sued her employer, Jooyee Network, for $5,000 after she was dismissed. She was seeking damages for wrongful dismissal, vacation pay and bonus pay for a translation project.
There were three primary issues before the court:
- Did the employer give sufficient notice of termination of employment?
- Does the employer owe the worker vacation pay?
- Does the employer owe the worker bonus pay?
Notice of termination
On June 1, 2021, So and her employer exchanged multiple text messages about her employment. The company said it was reducing its workforce and asked her if she agreed to change her work schedule from full-time to “on call.”
So said this change would breach her employment contract. Jooyee responded by saying her employment would be terminated as of June 15, 2021. The company took the position it was terminating her because it didn’t have enough work for her and that she failed a Japanese language translation test.
So said she was hired as a quality assurance technician and not as a Japanese translator. This was consistent with her employment contract, which did not include translation services in the list of job duties.
The court found there was not just cause to dismiss her employment. Rather, based on the June 1 text messages, the real reason was the company did not have enough work for her to continue, the court said.
“Jooyee argues that Ms. So is only entitled to 2 weeks’ notice under the employment contract. Paragraph 44 of the employment contract says that “…reasonable and sufficient notice of termination of employment by the Employer is the greater of two (2) weeks or any minimum notice required by law.” The contract does not say whether paragraph 44’s “minimum notice required by law” refers to notice requirements under the ESA, the common law or both. In interpreting the contract, I note that the common law does not have a “minimum notice” period,” the court said.
“So, I find that the “minimum notice required by law” in paragraph 44 of the employment contract does not relate to the length of reasonable notice that Ms. So is entitled to under common law. Rather, I find that this provision refers to Ms. So’s potential ESA entitlements which, as discussed above, are not within the CRT’s jurisdiction. So, I make no findings relating Ms. So’s ESA entitlements and I find that she was entitled to 2 weeks’ notice under the employment contract.”
It dismissed that claim.
So claimed she was owed an unspecified amount for vacation pay. The court said it had no jurisdiction over her claims for vacation pay under employment standards legislation.
“The employment contract says that Jooyee will pay Ms. So vacation pay instead of vacation time. However, the contract does not say the amount of Ms. So’s vacation pay or provide a formula to calculate it. Further, Ms. So has not provided any evidence or submission showing the amount of any allegedly unpaid vacation pay owed under the employment contract,” the court said. “In the absence of supporting evidence, I find that Ms. So’s claim for unpaid vacation pay under the employment contract is unproven. So, I dismiss this claim.”
So claimed she was owed $533.51 for an unpaid performance-based bonus relating to a Chinese language translation project.
The parties exchanged text messages on April 26, 2021 discussing the project. Jooyee wrote that it would pay So a performance-based bonus calculated at the rate of one cent per word translated. So agreed to do so.
“Based on the April 26, 2021 text messages, I find that the parties entered an agreement to pay Ms. So a bonus for a translation project,” the court said.
It awarded her $533.51 plus $87.50 in CRT fees and $2.18 in pre-judgment interest.
For more information see So v. Jooyee Network Inc., 2022 BCCRT 574 (CanLII)