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Cambridge dealer ordered to pay fired manager $48K for wrongful dismissal


Gordon Paul

CAMBRIDGE, ONT. – A judge has ordered a Cambridge car dealer to pay a former manager $48,000 for breaching its contract by wrongfully firing him without notice.

Wright Auto Sales Inc. on Hespeler Road fired Larry Volchoff on June 16, 2014, over allegations he had been under the influence of alcohol at work more than once and drove a company car while impaired by alcohol, Justice Robert Nightingale wrote in his ruling.

Volchoff admitted that he occasionally drank one glass of wine during lunch prior to weekly management meetings but said he never drank at work and never drove a company car while impaired.

He said he was never told he could not have alcohol at lunch.

In a ruling last month, Nightingale said it's clear sales staff raised allegations about drinking only after Volchoff made changes in his handling of Internet sales leads – changes that might affect them financially.

“In other words, his alcohol consumption never was a significant issue for any of the sales staff,” the judge said.

Volchoff testified company brass told him in March 2014 that a customer had complained he was drunk at work on a Sunday afternoon.

He “adamantly denied” he consumed any alcohol that day, the judge said.

Volchoff testified the company's operations manager told him on June 11, 2014, a staff member had accused him of driving a company car while impaired and being at work after drinking.

“Volchoff was surprised at those allegations, immediately denied them and said they weren't true,” Nightingale said.

He was suspended for one week with pay and was told management would investigate. Volchoff said he was told he would be given the chance to answer the allegations at a June 16 meeting. But at the meeting, management told him they now had proof of the accusations and fired him.

“Volchoff was given no chance to respond to the vague allegations but rather, he was simply given his termination letter, which surprised him,” Nightingale said. “The letter had already been typed up before the meeting …”

Volchoff, now in his mid-60s, had run the Cambridge business since August 2012. He was responsible for nine employees. The company had been pleased with his work before making the allegations.

The judge concluded alcohol consumption did not affect his ability to perform his duties.

“In my view, the rather vague acts of misconduct by consumption of alcohol during work hours by the plaintiff are not serious enough to warrant his dismissal,” Nightingale said.

He concluded Wright Auto Sales breached its contract by terminating him without notice and said Volchoff is entitled to damages for wrongful dismissal.

Volchoff made $120,000 in 2013 and about $65,000 in 2014 by the time he was fired in June. The judge ordered the company to pay him $48,557 in damages, representing five months of notice he was owed.
 
“Our courts have long recognized that work is one of the most fundamental aspects of a person's life, providing the individual with the means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society,” the judge said.

“Not only is work fundamental to an individual's identity, but the manner in which employment can be terminated is equally important.”

Waterloo Region Record