Come By Chance oil refinery. Ñ Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
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A former executive of North Atlantic Refinery Ltd. (NARL) has been awarded a substantial settlement against the company.
In a written decision filed July 26, Supreme Court Judge Alphonsus E. Faour ordered the company to pay compensation to Glenn Mifflin for two years worth of salary, as well as unused and earned vacation pay.
The settlement could be worth over $1 million.
Glen Mifflin launched the lawsuit against NARL in 2014, a year after he was dismissed, without cause.
Mifflin, a chartered accountant, was hired by North Atlantic Refining Ltd. in 1988. According to evidence presented in court, he was enticed to take the position by an enhanced vacation package.
In 2011, he was promoted to the position of executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer,
On Jan. 23, 2013, following a change in ownership of the company, Mifflin's position was terminated, and he was asked to leave his office.
The court heard that at the time of his termination, Mifflin’s annual compensation package from the company included: annual base salary of $215,000; a $6,000 bonus in his last full year of work; use of a company vehicle; health benefits, and a pension entitlement under two pension plans: a Registered Pension Plan (RPP) in respect of a portion of his income, and a Supplemental Executive Retirement Pension (SERP).
Supreme Court Justice Alphonsus E. Faour found the dismal wrongful, since no notice was provided, and no cause was asserted, quoting Bardal v. Globe & Mail Ltd.
The timing of Mifflin's dismissal was also a crucial fact in his case. He had been less than one year from being eligible to retire with no reduction from his pension benefit.
If Mifflin had been provided a reasonable notice period, he would have been entitled to an unreduced pension, as well as a retirement health benefit for himself and his wife, Justice Faour determined.
If Mifflin had retired effective February 1, 2013, at 59 years of age, his pension would have been $4,700 monthly. However, by the provision of a reasonable notice period, if he was “bridged” to February 1, 2014, he would have been 60 years old and would have been entitled to a pension of $7,600 monthly, a difference of some $2,900 monthly.
Following his dismissal, Mifflin and the company entered negotiations regarding severance.
After 10 months of negotiation an agreement was almost reached, the court heard, but North Atlantic refused to complete the agreement just hours before the Dec. 17, 2013 deadline.
Justice Faour noted that this seemed illogical, as the agreement almost reached was more favorable than any calculations of damages under common law.
"Considering that in an action for wrongful dismissal, the agreement almost reached was more favorable to the Defendant than the likely calculation of damages under the common law, there appeared to be no logical reason why the Defendant essentially forced the Plaintiff to litigate the issue," wrote Justice Faour
"I was unable to understand why this case actually went to trial,” said Judge Faour in his decision. “The Defendant clearly acknowledged its obligations to Mr. Mifflin. It acknowledged the requirement to pay a reasonable notice period, and even proposed a number, which was similar to that of the Plaintiff. The Defendant acknowledged Mr. Mifflin’s interest in being “bridged” to age 60 for pension purposes. The Defendant acknowledged his interest in health benefits. There was even acknowledgement about his entitlement to payout of the value of earned but unused vacation benefits, although in the end there was no real agreement about the amount of these benefits.”
In his decision Judge Faour ordered the company to pay two years’ worth of annual salary of $215,00, totaling $430,000.
If it’s possible for him to implement his pension and retirement benefits, Mifflin has the right to use the sum of $430,000 to enhance his pension benefit, as if he had continued to work with North Atlantic until after his 60th birthday, as well as right to access retirement benefits available from date of retirement, which would have been Feb. 1, 2014.
The judge also ordered that if it’s not possible for Mifflin to implement pension and retirement benefits, as negotiated, then the company will have to pay him an additional lump sum payment of $606,200 — the difference between his pension entitlement negotiated, and the reduced pension to which he is now entitled.
He was also awarded a lump sum payment of $80,309, representing the difference in health insurance premium plus projected costs of medical expenses.
Mifflin will also receive $175,355.12 in earned but unused vacation pay.
The court also noted interest is also payable on the amounts awarded as per the Judgment Interest Act, R.S.N.L. 1990.
The company will also have to pay Mifflin’s legal costs.