A longtime employee of Chilliwack’s Jolly Miller Pub and Liquor Store has successfully sued for wrongful dismissal.
Gai Cadrin said she was let go without proper notice on March 29, 2022 and B.C. Supreme Court justice Anita Chan agreed, awarding her damages for 17 months of notice, including wages, vacation pay, bonus, medical and dental expenses, and Canada Pension Plan contributions.
The defendant in the suit was New Westminster-based Dunsmuir Holdings, which owns the Jolly Miller. Parmbaksh Singh Dhaliwal has been the owner and general manager of Dunsmuir Holdings since 1989.
Cadrin worked on the Jolly Miller’s liquor store side for 35 years, starting as a clerk in 1987 before being promoted to manager in 1990 or 1991. Cadrin and Dhaliwal enjoyed a strong relationship until recently. Dhaliwal was godfather to Cadrin’s daughter, he was friends with her husband and he paid for the couple to go to Mexico every year from 2013 through 2020.
But the relationship soured over a workplace dispute.
In early 2020, Cadrin asked Dhaliwal if she could handle a weekly order to the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, an important job previously done by colleague Heather Peterson. Dhaliwal agreed, but in June of 2021, fearing he might lose Peterson to another liquor store, Dhaliwal gave that duty back to her, and promoted her to be co-manager with Cadrin.
Dhaliwal testified that that Cadrin was very upset, and swore at him. Soon after, there was an incident where Cadrin admitted to calling Peterson a backstabber and other names. From that time on, Dhaliwal said there was tension at work, and that “it became a very difficult situation.”
Cadrin agreed that there was tension, but insisted she remained committed to her job, and she was able to communicate with Peterson when required. Peterson disagreed, testifying that Cadrin was hostile, rude and abrupt with her.
Things came to a head March 29, 2022 when Cadrin arrived at work following two weeks of sick leave. With a human resources specialist, Karen Rutledge, listening on the phone, Dhaliwal asked Cadrin for her key and offered her an envelope containing a letter of termination. Cadrin was paid eight weeks severance, and was offered an additional 32 weeks, but she did not accept.
Cadrin, who was 58 at the time of the termination, told the court she was devastated. She was depressed, anxious and on many days could not get off her couch. She started looking for work three months later, but her job search skills were rusty. She had limited computer skills and didn’t know how to search for work online.
Chan found her age and lack of computer skills to be compelling arguments for why she should have been given more notice.
“The plaintiff has not been competing for jobs for the last 35 years,” the justice wrote. “She graduated from secondary school in the 1980s, and has not taken any further formal training. She does not have the computer skills that the modern-day work force requires.”
Chan said the appropriate notice period would have been 20 months. She knocked off two months because Cadrin didn’t do enough to find a new job, and shaved off another month when Dhaliwal successfully argued the notice period goes beyond the trial date.
Cadrin’s claims for aggravated and punitive damages were dismissed.
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