February 10, 2003
ill employee was entitled to know of her rights under the company’s
long-term disability plan before her resignation was accepted, ruled the
Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
In the case of Menard v. Royal Insurance Co. of Canada, Justice Hennessy found that the
plaintiff had submitted her resignation to her employer because she felt
“unable to cope with the system, workload, changes within the company and
industry.” She waited for a response from her employers. Instead, she was
given an exit interview in which, Justice Hennessy noted, she was not told
of her rights under the insurer’s plan though this was usual practice.
The employer knew
that Menard had a prior history of depression and difficulty coping with
stress, ruled the judge. She had previously taken leaves for stress in the
past. Based on her mood at the exit interview, and knowing of her past
history, the employer’s behaviour demonstrated it wished to avoid
discussing her rights to insurance payments under the employer’s plan. This
was a clear violation of her contract of employment, ruled the court:
improperly completed the termination knowing or, with the ability to know,
that Menard was entitled to benefits. Royal had a duty to inform her of the
benefits to which she had access. .
. . By not doing so, they were demonstrating their own intention not to be
bound by the employment agreement.
Thus, by failing
to be candid with the employee about her rights under the insurance plan,
the employer violated her employment contract. The court ordered the
parties to appear at a later time to address the issues of financial
compensation for the breach of contract.
are expected to guess when an employee has a mental disability,” said Jorge
consultant and labour lawyer with Ottawa management consulting firm Labour Relations Consultants. “The
best way to handle this is to give every departing employee a full
explanation of their rights under the insurer’s plan and make referrals to
a counsellor or an employee assistance program where the employee’s
behaviour seems unusual.”