Ex Interior Health employee wins wrongful dismissal lawsuit - InfoNews

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Ex Interior Health employee wins wrongful dismissal lawsuit

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April 04, 2017 - 9:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - A Vancouver man will be awarded damages after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Interior Health was in the wrong when they terminated him without notice.

Phuc Ly filed a lawsuit against the health authority after claiming he was wrongfully dismissed in January 2015 after his probationary period with IHA came to an end. In September 2014, Ly was hired as manager of a number of staff within the quality improvement department and in November he moved to Kamloops to begin work.

Portions of emails were inserted in Judge Maria Morellato’s written decision, showing Ly was hired on a $98,000 per year salary and was told – as with many jobs – he would need to undergo a probation period of six months.

The probation was referred to in one of the emails, but Morellato called the exchange of emails between IH and Ly “confusing at best.” There appeared to be discrepancies in the emails, which made it difficult to understand which documents Ly was supposed to abide by. One exchange told Ly to disregard a previous email which had two terms of employment conditions attached.

Interior Health’s lawyer Cameron Wardell argued that this case was a good opportunity for the court to address legalities around employment probation. Morellato said IH had a right to dismiss Ly without notice during his probation period, providing they acted in good faith.

“There is… an implied contractual right to dismiss him without notice during his probationary period, providing IHA acted in good faith in its assessment of his suitability for his position,” Morellato said, indicating a company does not need just cause to dismiss someone during a probationary period.

But Morellato has ruled IH did not act in good faith when they dismissed Ly. Her decision details the hardship Ly faced during his employment with the health authority, including a lack of response from IH when Ly tried to better understand the expectations for this job.

“I find that he was not given a fair opportunity to demonstrate his suitability for his position,” Morellato said. “Mr. Ly made genuine and concerted attempts to better understand the basis for his employer’s assessment of his suitability but his efforts to do so were not responded to with clarity by his employer.”

Morellato said the court was particularly concerned about an email Ly sent to his superior within five weeks of starting his job, requesting a meeting to discuss his progress, areas he needed to work on, expectations and responsibilities.

“I would really appreciate any help and guidance you might be able to provide in getting me proficient in the role,” Ly wrote in the email “I just want to ensure my efforts are aligned with not only the organizational goals but your vision and goals as well for the team.”

But a meeting never took place between Ly and his superior. Morellato said Ly and his superior gave evidence it could take up to one year to understand everything within the health authority.

Morellato’s decision shows not everyone was accepting of Ly when he first started the job, including his supervisor who at one point muttered she “didn’t know how long he’d last” after a meeting.

In January 2015, Ly set up a meeting with his superior in hopes of discussing his job progress, but his superior testified by that point, the decision to terminate Ly had already been made.

Morellato ruled Ly was not given a fair shot at showcasing his suitability for his new position and that IH did not act in good faith when they terminated Ly. Ly’s lawyer argued his client left permanent work in Vancouver to work for IH in Kamloops and that there are limited opportunities for someone in Ly’s specialized field. Ly has since moved to Winnipeg for work.

Morellato ruled it would have been suitable for IH to give Ly three months notice, but since that didn’t happen Ly will be awarded three months pay in lieu.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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