Court allows employer’s counterclaim against GM who resigned after demanding raise, promotion to president to proceed

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The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has dismissed an anti-SLAPP motion filed by a worker that sought to have a counterclaim from his former employer tossed out.

The case involved VK, the former general manager of United Wire, who quit after issuing an ultimatum to his employer to make him president with full control of operations and HR and a salary increase to $295,000 per year.

VK’s demand included a resignation letter should the company not accept his new terms. United Wire refused, and accepted VK’s resignation.

Following his departure, VK sought damages totaling over $7 million, claiming wrongful dismissal and emotional distress. United Wire, in turn, filed a counterclaim against VK for alleged damages of $3.27 million, citing breach of contract and negligence leading to significant losses for the company.

Anti-SLAPP provision

VK moved to have the counterclaim dismissed under section 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act, commonly known as the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) provision, asserting that his claim involved matters of public interest.

However, the Court disagreed, emphasizing that VKs lawsuit was a private employment dispute without substantial public interest implications.

The Court concluded that the issues at stake were primarily private matters between VK and United Wire. It stated that the resolution of such disputes seldom constitutes a matter of public interest. The court also found that United Wire’s counterclaim had substantial merit and that VK had no valid defense against it.

“In my view, United Wire is not acting vindictively or strategically to silence (VK),” it said. “The counterclaim should be allowed to proceed, and its merits left to the trial judge. If, at the end of trial, the judge concludes that the counterclaim was meritless or merely tactical, the judge may find that the counterclaim justifies a significant costs order against United Wire.”

The ruling highlighted the broader context of the litigation, noting that allowing VK’s motion would only prevent United Wire from recovering potential damages without significantly affecting the scope of the trial.

Costs

It left it to the parties to determine costs, but said they could contact the court with submissions if they could not come to an agreement.

For more information, see Kamranpoor v. United Wire & Cable (Canada) Inc., 2023 ONSC 6490 (CanLII)

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