EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct information concerning the amount Kwantlen Polytechnic University was required to pay its former employee. The original story reported that KPU had been ordered to pay a former employee $83,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal. In fact, KPU was ordered to pay $3,070.77 on top of payments already made as proper notice. The Now regrets the error.
SURREY — A B.C. Supreme Court Judge has determined that a former Kwantlen Polytechnic University director who claimed damages for wrongful dismissal against her employer will receive eight day’s pay, or $3,070.77, on top of payments that KPU already made as proper notice.
Sandra Schinnerl was KPU’s director of international programs and exchanges, hired in 2007 at a salary just shy of $100,000.
In 2013 she received an education leave from work to pursue doctoral studies in public policy, focusing on immigration policy as it relates to international students. But when she returned to work in 2016, Justice John Steeves noted, Schinnerl’s employment was terminated without cause apparently as a result of restructuring by KPU, which has campuses in Newton, Cloverdale, Langley and Richmond.
Steeves presided over the case in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, in his summary he noted Schinnerl “was dismissed without cause” in March 2016.
“The plaintiff is entitled to damages equivalent to ten months’ salary at $3,838 bi-weekly for the defendant’s wrongful dismissal of her,” he stated in his summary, adding that “the defendant’s obligation to pay notice ended on June 13, 2016 when the plaintiff had the opportunity to work full-time in alternate employment and thus mitigate her damages after that date. The defendant has paid the plaintiff up to June 1, 2016.”
The court heard KPU offered to continue paying Schinnerl her salary and benefits for 10 months provided she conducted “reasonable” job searches and told KPU if she got a new job within that time. The university’s conditions were that if she were hired by a “public sector employer” in that 10 months KPU, and if her new salary was less than what she earned at KPU, it would pay her the shortfall. But if her new employer was not a “public sector employer,” as defined in the Public Sector Employer’s Act, the salary continuance payments would end the day she started her new job and KPU would provide her with a lump-sum severance “less deductions required by law, equal to 50 per cent of the remaining salary (she) would have received” had she remained unemployed “until the end of the salary continuance period.”
The judge noted that Schinnerl “did not accept the defendant’s offer” but “nonetheless the defendant paid the plaintiff as described in its offer.”
Within a few months, Schinnerl was hired by Douglas College as its director of global engagement, at a higher full-time salary than KPU had been paying.
But Steeves noted that Schinnerl’s first six months’ work at Douglas College was part-time, and then full-time thereafter. The court decided that KPU’s obligation to pay its former employee stopped when Douglas College offered her full-time regular work on June 13, 2016.