Refusing to admit evidence was breach of natural justice

Federal court | Employment

EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP

Refusing to admit evidence was breach of natural justice

Respondent was helicopter maintenance engineer and he maintained helicopters owned by applicant. Respondent took position that he was self-employed when it suited him from compensation, income tax or spousal support perspective. When relationship with applicant ended it suited respondent to say that he was employee of applicant and was entitled to damages for unjust dismissal pursuant to Canada Labour Code. Adjudicator determined that respondent was employee of applicant and he was awarded damages for unjust dismissal. Applicant applied for judicial review of adjudicator’s decision. Application granted. Adjudicator erred in law in refusing to admit two affidavits filed by applicant into evidence. Affidavits were relevant evidence that went directly to issues raised by applicant. They spoke to parties’ views of relationship and they spoke directly to how respondent viewed relationship with applicant prior to unjust dismissal complaint. Affidavits were clearly relevant to issue of whether respondent ought to be estopped from asserting that he was employee, as against applicant. Refusing to admit evidence was breach of natural justice. Once contested affidavits were admitted, adjudicator’s ruling was unreasonable. Other than respondent describing himself as contract employee, there was no evidence that he ever considered himself to be employee. Respondent led applicant to understand that relationship was not that of employer-employee, but was that of independent contractor. Applicant changed its position by not making deductions it was legally required to make if relationship was one of employment. It was unreasonable for adjudicator to have found that respondent maintained he was employee. Adjudicator erred in rejecting applicant’s defence that respondent was estopped from claiming he was employee of applicant. Only reasonable conclusion based on proper analysis of evidence that ought to have been admitted was that respondent always maintained he was self-employed as independent contractor.
Rennie and VIH Helicopters Ltd., Re (Jan. 8, 2014, F.C., Russel W. Zinn J., File No. T-675-13) 236 A.C.W.S. (3d) 637.

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