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Fired Coquitlam worker forced to pay back CERB on wrongful dismissal appeal

A BC Supreme Court judge ruled this month that a trial court had erred in not taking a former employee's CERB payments into account
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A general construction labourer who was laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic sued his Coquitlam employer for wrongful dismissal.

But when Reotech Construction appealed the small-court decision in favour of Dean Snider, a BC Supreme Court judge deducted the CERB payments from the former employee’s original damage award.

In a ruling made March 2 at BC Supreme Court in New Westminster, the judge threw out Reotech’s appeal on its 12 grounds — except for two, including deducting the $9,000 Canadian Employment Response Benefit (CERB) that Snider received from the federal government in 2020.

According to the legal papers, Snider had worked for Reotech for two years and four months when he was temporarily laid off because of the pandemic.

He was not recalled to work, and was terminated without cause.

In compensation, Reotech paid Snider two-weeks’ salary as per the company’s policy and procedure manual that he had received, and agreed to, upon hire.

However, Snider claimed a total of $35,000 in damages — including five months of damage for reasonable notice — and argued that his CERB payments shouldn’t matter.

The trial judge awarded Snider damages for a four-and-a-half month reasonable notice period and agreed with Snider not to deduct his CERB.

On appeal at BC Supreme Court, though, the judge ruled the trial court had erred in not taking the CERB payments into account — an issue that’s come up recently in many Canadian courts while examining wrongful dismissal cases during the pandemic.

Canadians who were impacted by the pandemic received $2,000 a month in CERB payments, if they applied.

Meanwhile, the BC Supreme Court judge also eliminated Reotech’s small court-imposed penalty, but ordered the Hartley Avenue-based company to pay Snider’s court costs.