This past Sunday was Father’s Day. This made us wonder, how has the relationship between fathers and their children been reflected in employment law cases? After we reflected on the cases that immediately came to mind, and then rounded out the list with some research, it became clear that this very special relationship has served as the backdrop, or even the centerpiece, of a number of employment law cases.
And so, with a special happy Father’s Day salute to our own wonderful fathers Morton Rubin and Ali Nikfarjam, we give you the following cases:
Smart v. McCall Pontiac Buick Ltd.: In this 1999 British Columbia decision, a father’s desire to promote his son by denigrating a general manager led to $255,450 in damages for constructive dismissal. The general manager was constructively dismissed when the owner of the dealership hired his son as the general sales manager, and circulated rumours about the general manager, alleging that he stole a car from his dealership. The owner even went so far as to have his son report the general manager to the R.C.M.P. for theft and fraud. The Court did not see this as an instance of a caring father-son relationship where a father did what he could to help his son; rather it saw the father’s and son’s actions as bad faith misconduct, warranting additional damages. The British Columbia Court of Appeal affirmed this decision in 2000.
Ben David v. Congregation B’nai Israel: In a decision rendered in 1999, an Ontario Courtjudge found that Rabbi Ben David was mistreated by his congregation in the manner that he was terminated, as well as the circumstances surrounding it. The Court described the congregations’ misconduct as a “personal attack” not just on Rabbi Ben David, but on his family as well. Notably, this included the Congregation refusing to recognize Rabbi Ben David and his son for the purpose of constituting a “minyan”, the group of worshippers required for the service to begin. The Court found this conduct to be malicious, justifying a lengthier notice period.
Baranowski v. Binks Manufacturing Co.: Mr. Baranowski claimed that he was wrongfully dismissed from his senior executive position after 29 years of service. Mr. Baranowski was informed of his termination by a note delivered to his home by a taxi driver on the night of his son’s graduation. In its decision in 2000, the Court held that Mr. Baranowski had been wrongfully dismissed. In determining the appropriate notice period, the Court noted that the employer’s manner of discharging Mr. Baranowski – waiting until his son’s graduation – was in bad faith, justifying an extension of the notice period by six months.
Anson Industrial Manufacturing (1989) Corp. v. Houghton: In 2012, the British Columbia Supreme Court upheld an employer’s just cause dismissal of a plant manager with 19 years of service who sold scrap metal and pocketed the proceeds. The Court, however, did not uphold the employer’s decision to fire the plant manager’s son as a result of his father’s actions. The Court awarded the son eight weeks’ severance pay.
Moffatt v. Kinark Child and Family Services: Mr. Moffat, who had been a supervisory employee at Kinark, complained that he was subjected to a poisoned workplace and ultimately terminated, on the basis of his sexual orientation and status as a gay foster parent. Specifically, the rumours related to the sexual impropriety between Mr. Moffat and his foster son. In 1999, Mr. Moffat succeeded in his claim of discrimination as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was convinced that there were unchecked and unfounded rumours in the office relating to Mr. Moffat’s sexual orientation and family situation, which were solely based on his sexual orientation.
Farrell v. Barrie Police Services Board: In 2011, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was faced with the application of Police Officer Farrell, who claimed that her father, with whom she worked, misused his position to harass her and her husband. Officer Farrell also claimed that she was discriminated against on the basis of family status when she was not considered for a position simply because her father worked there. While the Tribunal ultimately dismissed the application as a result of time limitations, the Tribunal noted that there was also little connection between Officer Farrell’s allegations against her father and her treatment from her employer. In other words, Officer Farrell was complaining of a negative familial relationship that had spilled over to the workplace, rather than workplace discrimination.