Hansen is an Alberta decision where the Court of Queen’s Bench concluded a deduction of two months, from an award of 24 months, was appropriate as there was “certainly a realistic possibility that Hansen will find alternate employment within the notice period provided for” (at para 54).
The plaintiff in Hansen was a 50-year-old professional civil engineer who had worked for Altus Energy Services Partnership (“Altus”) and its predecessors for 29 years. Over time, he had risen to the position of General Engineering Manager for which he received a salary of $160,000, a company vehicle, and an annual bonus. Leading up to his dismissal, Altus had reduced the hours of operation and the salaries of its employees by 20% and Mr. Hansen had accepted this reduction with the expectation that such reduction would only be temporary. Although Mr. Hansen’s hours returned to their original level later on, his salary remained at the reduced level, notwithstanding a significant promotion. Despite several attempts to speak to Senior Management, his salary was never restored to its original amount and, soon after his promotion, Mr. Hansen was dismissed without cause or notice.
The Court awarded a notice period of 24 months in light of the plaintiff’s years of service, his age, and his expertise. Justice J. H. Goss also concluded that taking three months to construct a resume, using the services of two headhunting firms, and regularly using the website of one of the headhunting firms to search for employment over a period of ten months following dismissal were sufficient to demonstrate the employee had fulfilled his duty to mitigate.
The trial took place within the notice period and Altus argued the notice period ought to be reduced to reflect the contingency that Mr. Hansen would find suitable employment before the expiry of the 24 months. The Court applied a contingency of two months to the notice period but provided little analysis with respect to how it reached the conclusion that two months was sufficient. Justice Goss cited only a “positive and long track record with the defendants” (at para 54*) as an indication of the “realistic possibility” Mr. Hansen would find and obtain suitable employment.
As of the date of publication, Hansen has not been reversed or distinguished. Matusiak v IBM Canada Ltd., 2012 BCSC 1784 (“Matusiak”) is a more recent decision which provides very general guidance for determining deductions for contingency. In Matusiak, the trial took place within six months of the dismissal, and over half of the notice period remained. The Supreme Court of British Columbia held the employee was entitled to a notice period of 14 months, but agreed with the employer that “In the event the court determines that a reasonable notice period meets or exceeds 10 months... any award for reasonable notice should be reduced by one month to reflect the contingency that the plaintiff may secure alternative employment prior to the expiration of the notice period” (at para 47*).