A luxury wine company that paid a former staff member just 13 days of her three-month notice period has been ordered to pay her more than $30,000.
Amanda Long was employed as a commercial finance manager at Dionysus Investments before she was fired in April 2022.
Although her employment contract provided for a three-month notice period, Long was only paid for 13 days of that period.
Long filed her claim for the remainder of her notice period, compensation for injury and humiliation, penalties against Dionis and legal fees with the Labor Relations Board last year.
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In a recently released decision, authority member Claire English said Dionysus director Grant Humphrey acknowledged that Long was only paid for part of the notice period. He said it was because Dionysus had no money to pay her.
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But while he agreed that Long owed the gross amount of $22,000, Humphrey made no proposal to pay her.
Long was first told she might be fired on April 4, 2022, when Dionysus sent an email announcing potential layoffs from the sale of the company.
On April 17, Long received an email saying her role had been terminated. In the attached letter, it was confirmed that her employment will end on April 30. This meant that Long received 13 days’ notice, rather than the three months she was entitled to.
On April 17, Long emailed Humphrey, confirming that she had received the termination notice and asking him to confirm that she would receive the contractual notice period and severance pay under the contract.
Humphrey responded by asking if she would “agree” to receive a smaller amount. Long refused and indicated that she wanted to receive her contractual rights.
Dionysus then paid Longo his salary through April 30, vacation and contractual right to termination. The rest of the notice period has not been paid.
Dionysus’ position, English said in her decision, was that when the business was sold, it was unable to pay Long because it could only pay “salaries and other wages,” and that Long’s notice period was not a “preferred” payment.”
It said Long was “not entitled to payment before secured creditors” and would be paid when “all sales of the business are completed.”
“I note that despite the language used by Dionysus, when it talks about ‘preferential payments’ and ‘secured creditors’, Dionysus is not in liquidation or receivership,” English said.
“When it comes to the payment of salaries, Dioniz is, and remains, obliged to pay them when they are due. A long notice period is the payment of wages. These wages are due on the date Long’s employment is terminated, which is April 30, 2022.”
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English also said Dionysus could not have “rejected” Long’s notice period, as Humphrey said the company did.
In a written statement, he said: “I waived the notice period that I am owed [Dionysus] to make it easier for her to move [to new employment].”
The employment agreement between the parties stated that in order to terminate Longa’s employment, Dionysus must give her three months’ notice in writing. Alternatively, Dionysus could pay Longa for all or part of this three-month time period.
“To ‘renounce’ something means to refrain from exercising a right. In this case, Long is contractually entitled to receive three months’ notice and/or payment in lieu as appropriate,” English said.
“Dioniz cannot waive rights owed to Long, so the suggestion that Dioniz ‘waived’ or waived the notice period does not address Long’s claim for payment that remains outstanding.”
Dionysus accepted that Long was not paid for much of the three-month notice period required by her employment contract.
“In other words, he accepts that he violated his employment contract,” English said.
“The only reason Ms Long had to ask for part of her notice to be paid instead is because Dionysus chose to only give her 13 days notice of her termination and then refused to pay her after this. Dionysus is therefore responsible for the punishment.”
Long said she “felt betrayed and angry and was emotionally drained by the series of events.”
Humphrey said he did not know how the company contributed to her injury and humiliation, that Long was well paid and did the best he could under the circumstances.
However, English disagreed, saying that Humphrey and Dionysus failed to do the one thing they were obligated to do – pay Long her wages when they were due.
English said Longa’s comments were reasonable and that not paying her salary when it was due had “obvious negative effects.”
Dionysus Investments was ordered to pay Long $22,000 in back wages and $5,000 in compensatory damages for injuries and humiliation.
A fine of $8,000 was also ordered to be paid to the Crown, half of which will be forwarded to Long.