Groundbreaking severance ruling in landmark Alberta case by Osuji & Smith Employment Lawyers
For the first time in Alberta, a summary trial for wrongful dismissal awarded 2 years’ severance pay to a non-management employee. Mr. Steven Oostlander initially came to Osuji & Smith with no knowledge of his rights after dedicating over half his life to one employer and being suddenly terminated. Charles Osuji, Amanda Jacinto, and the team at Osuji & Smith poured their hearts into the case, resulting in praiseworthy success.
What is a summary trial?
A summary trial is a legal trial using affidavits, expert reports, and written arguments instead of verbal arguments and other tools of a full trial. This alternative form of trial is intended to resolve a legal claim more quickly and more affordably than a full trial. It’s often used when it can be proven that one side of the argument has no realistic claim or defence, and therefore doesn’t require a full trial.
The Case: Oostlander v Cervus Equipment Corporation
Here’s an overview of the summary trial of Oostlander v Cervus Equipment Corporation.
In May 2018, Mr. Oostlander had worked for Cervus for 34 years as a heavy-duty mechanic, servicing agricultural equipment in Bassano, Alberta. Cervus decided to convert the Bassano location into a retail branch to sell equipment parts, so they notified Mr. Oostlander that his employment would be terminated 16 months later in September 2019.
However, as his termination date approached, Mr. Oostlander learned that the Bassano location was expected to remain in operation for another 5 years, and he was told that he “was being kept on” despite his termination notice.
Mr. Oostlander continued to work for Cervus in Bassano until June 3, 2020. That’s when Cervus gave him 1 months’ notice of termination, which Mr. Oostlander objected to.
Osuji & Smith Dedication Leads to Groundbreaking Decision
At this point, Mr. Oostlander retained employment lawyers at Osuji & Smith. They wrote to Cervus, and Cervus responded by offering Mr. Oostlander a job in Brooks, doing the same work for the same rate of pay.
Mr. Oostlander rejected that offer for various reasons. He was nearing retirement and wasn’t comfortable with a long daily commute, especially in winter. Relocating to Brooks was undesirable, especially because his wife had a secure job in Bassano.
Mr. Oostlander then sued Cervus for wrongful dismissal. The judge found that Mr. Oostlander was, in fact, wrongfully terminated, and awarded him damages equivalent to 24 months’ wages—2 full years’, a groundbreaking decision in Alberta employment law.
“This is a landmark victory for someone so deserving,” says Charles Osuji, managing partner at Osuji & Smith. “Mr. Oostlander is a wonderful man who served his former employer with loyalty and dedication for 36 years! The chuckle in his voice, and the laughter that followed when I explained the decision to him will ring eternally in my head. This is why we pour our heart and soul into what we do.”
What This Means for You
This summary trial is important because it sets a precedent for future employees of Alberta who may have been wrongfully dismissed. Prior to this decision, no Alberta non-management employee had ever been awarded a 24-month severance package at a summary trial in recent times.
The team at Osuji & Smith has blazed a new trail. Their success in this landmark case has laid the groundwork for future wrongful dismissal cases. Their hard work and commitment to the best interests of their clients has paid off for Mr. Oostlander and the many clients who have trusted them with their legal challenges.