Wednesday, August 29, 2007.
When the police called inquiring about her boss removing boxes from her workplace, Lioubov Perewernycky was unconcerned. She assumed that her assurance he was merely helping her carry out her personal effects would end the matter. Her confidence was illusory.
The inside sales representative with 10 years service at Alberta-based National-Oilwell reported to Rowland Massinon. Health problems during her pregnancy forced her to take early sick leave.
Coincidentally, a day before her leave began, Massinon was fired. He asked Perewernycky if she and a co-worker would escort him on to the premises the following weekend because he needed to cancel an e-fax account that was being charged to his credit card.
At the office, Perewernycky watched Massinon cancel the account from her computer. Then she stepped away from her workstation, leaving him unsupervised. While there, she encountered another employee, Richard Bracko but didn't think much of it, then packed her belongings in a box, which Massinon carried out for her.
Bracko immediately alerted the employer she and Massinon were removing boxes from the office. The police were contacted, and in turn called her regarding the report she and Massinon were seen taking boxes out of the office. The police seemed satisfied with her explanation the contents were personal. Her employer was not. Having learned Massinon was given access to the computer system, National-Oilwells dismissed Perewernycky for breach of trust. Stunned by this turn of events, she sued.
Rejecting the employer's defence of just cause, Mr. Justice Robert Cairns of the Albert Court of Queen's Bench found no evidence Perewernycky had disclosed any confidential information to Massinon. Having been recently fired, Massinon, in any case, would have had the same knowledge as Perewernycky.
While her actions constituted an error in judgment, they were insufficient to warrant her dismissal. Neither the computer system nor the confidentiality of the company's information had been compromised. The court found the termination disproportionate to her conduct, and awarded her 10 months severance.
Incensed over National-Oilwell's decision to dismiss Perewernycky without giving her an opportunity to respond (other than to the police) and to do so at a time when she was vulnerable, the court awarded her an additional two months in bad faith damages.