Jul 27, 2012. /Lesprom Network/. Larry Higginson has won his wrongful dismissal case against Babine Forest Products. Higginson worked at the Burns Lake, British Columbia sawmill for 34 years. In October 2009, he was fired without severance pay, as ForestTalk reported.
Higginson sued Babine Forest Products and its owner Hampton Lumber Mills Inc. for wrongful dismissal. Higginson claimed he was fired as an attempt to avoid paying severance to long-term employees.
A jury in Prince George awarded Higginson approximately $809,000. Included in that amount is the largest punitive damages award in an employment law case in Canadian history.
Murray Tevlin, a senior lawyer at Vancouver employment law firm TevlinGleadle, which represented Higginson in the case, says, “Instead of just firing him after 34 years of faithful service, [the companies] made up a false allegation of cause for dismissal, [which] means that the employee has committed a fundamental breach of the employment contract by doing some outrageous act.”
Tevlin also says that before this “bogus allegation of cause,” the companies tried to make Higginson’s job miserable in order to cause him to quit.
“We were able to produce evidence that [the companies] were doing this because it’s a small town and people talk to each other . . . and certain admissions were made,” says Tevlin.
The firm also gave evidence that the companies were implementing an institutional scheme to avoid paying severance to other employees, he says.
The amount awarded to Higginson is:
- $236,000 in compensatory damages for wrongful dismissal.
- $573,000 in punitive damages for the companies’ conduct in terminating him.