⚖️ Pure gold

To: Hearsay Readers

Today’s update includes:

  • Air Canada sued over gold heist

  • Workplace evidence gathering backfires on employee

  • Legal writing but make it … Comic Sans?

  • Academics say Alberta Energy Regulator too cozy with industry

— Dylan Gibbs

CONTRACT

Air Canada sued for handing shipment worth over $20MM to thief with fake documentation

Screen capture of the character The Professor from Netflix series Money Heist

Money Heist - Netflix

A bank hires a security company to get cash and gold worth over $20-million from Zurich to Toronto. The security company hires an airline and uses their secure shipping service for valuable cargo. The shipment lands in Toronto. A rogue enters the airline’s cargo facility and presents fake documentation. The airline hands over the shipment, and the rogue skips his way to the bank.

Law school exam question? Plot for a Canadian spinoff of Money Heist?

No, those are the facts alleged in a lawsuit that security company Brink’s filed against Air Canada for breach of contract and negligence. Brink’s alleges Air Canada didn’t use proper security measures, like restricting access to its storage facility or — you know — validating the rogue’s documentation before handing over a stack of gold.

The lawsuit claims $23-million in compensation for the lost cargo, plus other damages.

Police are conducting a criminal investigation, but, according to the lawsuit, no arrests have been made. Like any good rogue in a legal hypothetical — this one remains MIA.

EMPLOYMENT

Secret recordings gave employer just cause to fire employee

Avoid The Office GIF

Giphy

If you think your employer is treating you unfairly, can you collect secret recordings to use as evidence against them? The BC Court of Appeal suggests it’s not a great idea. Acting like a spy in the workplace might feel pretty cool, but surreptitious recordings also undermine trust and violate privacy.

Backstory: Roman Shalagin worked in the finance department for Mercer, a paper mill operator. He didn’t get along with his boss. When things turned sour, Mr. Shalagin started recording conversations with management. He also recorded meetings with HR. Occasionally, Mr. Shalagin captured other employees speaking on the recordings, which he said was accidental (oops - I forgot to stop the recording).

Things came to a head during a disagreement about bonuses — Mr. Shalagin threatened to sue. Mercer fired him in response, without cause, and paid the minimum amount of termination pay required by BC’s Employment Standards Act.

Mr. Shalagin sued Mercer for wrongful dismissal. He also filed a human rights complaint alleging discrimination. During the complaint proceedings, Mercer learned about Mr. Shalagin’s secret recordings and changed its tune. Based on the recordings, Mercer said it had just cause and didn’t owe Mr. Shalagin any termination pay.

The trial judge sided with Mercer, finding just cause for dismissal. The Court of Appeal upheld that decision.

Takeaway: Surreptitious recordings can give just cause for dismissal. In the Court’s view, Mr. Shalagin’s conduct was underhanded and would erode trust with most employers. It’s not outright dishonesty, but it’s pretty bad.

Tough break: Mercer was willing to fire Mr. Shalagin without cause and give him termination pay in lieu of notice. And by the time of trial, Mercer seems to have accepted that it owed Mr. Shalagin more than the minimums in the Employment Standards Act. In fact, Mercer said he should get 10 months salary ($102,500) for a without-cause dismissal. So if Mr. Shalagin hadn’t spilled the beans about his secret recordings during the discrimination proceedings, he probably could have negotiated a healthy settlement. Instead he walks away with nothing. Ouch.

Decision report card:

◻️😐◻️◻️◻️ Factual interest

◻️◻️🙂◻️◻️ Legal interest

🥴◻️◻️◻️◻️ Private investigation skills

LEGAL WRITING

Delivering formal justice in casual fonts

Frequent CanLII readers may have noticed that formatting on the website differs slightly between documents. Usually the differences are insignificant. Older cases in a scanned PDF format. The odd case with lingering highlighting — perhaps an artifact of a note to draft left by a judge (or their law clerk).

But CanLII’s formatting also has something much more sinister to tell us.

Justice Carole Curtis of the Ontario Court of Justice appears to have produced her work product in Comic Sans font for over 10 years.

Screenshot of judgment written in Comic Sans font

For those able to set aside their hatred of goofy fonts, it’s a helpful reminder to be yourself and do what you love. Let that freak flag fly.

HEARSAY ROUNDUP

🥦 A five-member panel of doctor and lawyers is reviewing the Cannabis Act. They published their first report, which outlines the feedback they obtained from consultations. The panel’s final report will recommend improvements and reforms to the legislation as well as to related polices and programs.

🚚 The judge presiding over the criminal trial for “Freedom Convoy” organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber ruled that Ottawa residents can testify as Crown witnesses. Defence lawyers had objected, saying that residents would not add anything beyond what the defence was already prepared to admit.

🔦 Academics at the University of Calgary are calling for an independent review of the regulatory body that oversees oil and gas development in Alberta. Their published report asserts the Alberta Energy Regulator has inadequately addressed environmental liabilities because of its cozy relationship with industry participants.