The Supreme Court of British Columbia’s decision in Steinebach v Clean Energy Compression Corp. (2015 BCSC 460) represents an interesting development in the law related to an employee’s duty to mitigate his or her losses following termination.

Mr. Steinebach, a 19.5-year employee of the Defendant corporation, was terminated without notice. The Court held that he was not given reasonable working notice, and awarded him a total notice period of 16 months.

The interesting aspect of this case was the Court’s analysis of Mr. Steinebach’s mitigation attempts. The Court found that he undertook only a cursory search for employment with far too narrow a set of criteria and that, had he used reasonable criteria to conduct his search, he would have found employment in the field in which he had worked his entire adult life. Instead, Mr. Steinebach made the decision to change careers (from oil/gas to financial services). In light of his insufficient mitigation, the Court reduced Mr. Steinebach’s notice period by three months.

What does this mean for employers?

While this does not represent a massive win for employers, the Court’s analysis does provide employers with another tool to reduce their exposure to wrongful dismissal damages, as this case illustrates that part of a terminated employee’s duty to mitigate includes searching for and accepting similar alternative employment for which he or she is qualified. The appropriate reasonable notice period will not necessarily include time spent finding a job in an entirely different industry or occupation.

What does this mean for employees?

Employees must now keep in mind that the choice to substantially change careers after a wrongful termination may have an impact on the damages they are awarded. While it is accepted that anyone is free to change careers at any time, such a decision may have unforeseen consequences in these circumstances.

This post is intended to provide general information concerning developments in the law and is not intended to provide legal advice in respect of any particular situation.