Executive’s new job had no job description, long-term goals, employees or office.
A Nissan Canada’s executive’s new job had no job description, long-term goals, employees or office.
A senior manager with Nissan Canada who received a sideways transfer that stripped him of his authority and his staff, has been awarded $102,198 in damages for constructive dismissal by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
This case is another illustration of how an employee moved to a new position at the same salary and title, but without similar duties, can successfully claim the company’s actions were meant to force him to quit.
Harry Jodoin joined Nissan Canada in 2000 and was later promoted to senior manager of retails sales and sponsorships where he was responsible for most of the company’s advertising budget. He also oversaw Nissan’s sponsorship programs for the Canadian Football League and Cirque de Soleil as well as their participation in various auto shows.
Jodoin supervised two employees, had a $30 million budget and an office.
In December 2010, he was re-assigned as senior manager of Nissan’s vehicle participation program, a position that did not previously exist. There was no job description or long-term goals, no employees and no budget. He was moved from a private office to a cubicle in a very open area with heavy traffic.
In spite of email and telephone requests to Nissan executives for meetings to set objectives in the new position, his responsibilities remained largely undefined. The company viewed the job change as a lateral move with the same benefits, salary and status. However Jodoin saw his re-assignment as a demotion.
In mid-February 2011, he sent an email to Nissan’s President Allan Childs saying that he considered the transfer constructive dismissal.
He received a reply from Kim Davenport, Nissan’s U.S. Director of Human Resources on behalf of Childs. Her letter stated that the President was not satisfied with how he performed in his previous role and the purpose of the reassignment was “to provide him with the opportunity to take advantage of his core strengths which would ultimately be of more benefit to him and the organization.”
Jodoin testified at a trial that he was shocked by Davenport’s letter since he had never had a bad performance review. What’s more, before he was informed of the transfer, a co-worker was already on stand-by to take over his previous position and move into his old office.
Jodoin quit and in March 2011 he sued Nissan Canada for constructive dismissal. In documents filed with the court and evidence at trial, the company argued that Jodoin resigned for no good reason. Madame Justice Greer found that Jodoin was constructively dismissed because the only essential element of his contract that was not changed by Nissan was his salary.
In an August 2013 decision, Justice Greer wrote, “His new title was a hollow title as he had no one to manage in his new position. Any reasonable person…would have felt demoted.”
After working for Nissan for more than a decade, Jodoin was unemployed for nine months until he found a new position with another automobile company. Based on the time out of work, he was awarded $102,198 including salary, amounts for lost health benefits, use of the company car, the incentive plan and company contributions to his Registered Retirement Savings Plan.