Infamous Wrongful Dismissal – Public Employee Wins $1.35M in Damages

Two high-ranking public servants moved forward on reform plans designed to save Public Works billions of dollars. The future looked bright. But suddenly in August 2006, both were publicly vilified and handed their pink slips. As a result of their termination, the two individuals sued the federal government for wrongful dismissal.

A 108-page decision of adjudicator Dan Quigley of the Public Service Labour Relations Board revealed damning tidbits such as the government’s refusal to hand over documents, evidence that called some government testimony into question, and emails revealing plots to remove the two servants.

How did it happen?

Douglas Tipple, a real estate expert, and David Rotor, a procurement specialist, brought their private sector experience to the government, hoping to effect efficiency and cost-savings initiatives. The deputy public works minister at the time seemed impressed by their work, at least at first.

Then in August 2006, seemingly from out of nowhere, Tipple and Rotor found themselves the subject of a front-page article in The Globe and Mail. The story inferred that a business trip the pair took to Britain included missed meetings, a plagiarized report and use of the trip as a pleasure vacation with their wives.

Although Tipple had not missed any meetings, Public Works failed to defend the two employees. Despite an internal review that exonerated Rotor and Tipple, both were terminated a few weeks later.

Rotor speculates that certain entities, both public and private, resented his plans to remove the bureaucracy and high budgets. He also states that other staff saw the cost-cutting as a threat to their own jobs.

What Was the Result?

The Board called the dismissal of Tipple a “sham” and “camouflage.” Tipple was awarded the highest amount in the history of the labor board, with over $1.35 million in lost wages and in damages to his reputation and psychological well-being, plus interest and costs.

Points to Note

Tipple’s case is a stark example of the costly damage that can result from hasty and wrongful dismissals by employers. The decision also noted the failure of Public Works to take action when the Globe and Mail began investigating the allegations surrounding Tipple’s business trip to Britain.

Conversely, Tipple’s case is encouraging to employees looking to take action against injustices suffered at the workplace, even when the employer takes the form of an entity as formidable as the federal government.

For more information on this case, please see:
CBC Canada (Dismissal of public works adviser slammed, by John Nicol, July 20, 2010)
Tipple v. Deputy Head (Department of Public Works and Government Services)  2010 PSLRB 8

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