After almost ten years of fighting, Calgary-based stock broker Kurt Soost is not ready to throw in the towel.
Soost was wrongfully dismissed from Merril Lynch Canada Inc., for a breach of policy regarding a lack of documentation on some of his private placements. Initially, the judge ruled that Merril Lynch did not have cause for dismissal. Soost was awarded 2.2 million dollars, primarily for damage to his reputation and the loss of his clients. The Court of Appeal later reduced this award to $600,000, finding that Soost did in fact breach company protocol, and lacked the evidence to prove that the employer’s actions amounted to bad faith.
This case highlights a recent trend in employment law that appears to be reversing. In the past, judges have shown leniency towards employees when employers have acted in a harmful manner. More recently, in Honda v. Keays , the judge ruled that employees actually have to prove that the loss incurred was a result of the employer’s bad behavior.
The Court of Appeal ruling against Soost illustrates that the test for Keays type damages is more stringent than it has been in the past. The judge reasoned that allowing inflated awards would create an unfair burden on employers and could result in a “slackers charter”. Essentially, employers might choose to dismiss employees without cause and pay cash in lieu of notice in order to avoid potentially large punitive fines.
Soost plans on appealing the decision, but has a long road ahead of him in convincing the Supreme Court of his plea.
Read more about Soost’s case on the Globe and Mail website.