A letter of reference is a key term in a wrongful dismissal matter. It would be prudent in most situations to include the actual letter as a term of the settlement. Attach it as an appendix, along with a provision that the oral references are consistent with the content of the reference letter. In some situations, it is stipulated that the oral references are confined to what is stipulated in the reference letter. This way you have made the reference letter and the oral references an actual term of the settlement.
Stephanie Lipp was a server at Maverick’s Sports Lounge, a restaurant and bar in Vancouver. She was described by the General Manager as being a good worker, popular with the customers and an asset to the Company. After 6 months of employment, the business was sold to a new owner. Ms. Lipp was half-way through her pregnancy and showing at the time. The new owner expressed a desire to change the image of Maverick’s into a Sports Bar which included plans to reduce daytime hours and implement a “lingerie night”.
In a meeting between the new owner and the General Manager to discuss staffing changes, the new owner put his hands in front of his stomach in a gesture to indicate that Ms. Lipp was pregnant and directed that her hours be reduced from four shifts to one shift per week. While all staff experienced a reduction in shifts, the reduction in Ms. Lipp’s hours was the most extreme.
In a meeting to discuss why her hours had been reduced so drastically, the owner stated to Ms. Lipp that he could give anyone any shifts he wanted; he denied that it was due to her pregnancy and abruptly ended the meeting. It was subsequently reported to Ms. Lipp by the bartender and the kitchen manager that the owner wanted to get rid of her due to her pregnancy. The owner on more than one occasion referred to Ms. Lipp as “that pregnant bitch” and made a casual remark to other staff saying “What’s up with the pregnant girl” in a tone which would indicate that he thought she was out of place working as a pregnant employee at Maverick’s. The last straw was when management scheduled another server to come in on Ms. Lipp’s shift. When Ms. Lipp showed up 15 minutes early for her shift, she was informed that only one server was required and she was the one being sent home. The following day the floor manager texted her to tell her that she had been scheduled for two day shifts the following week but then later texted her to say that because business was slow, they would no longer be open on weekdays. Only one of her two shifts was re-scheduled to a weeknight. Ms. Lipp retained a lawyer and filed a complaint which was heard before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.
The Tribunal in its decision found that Maverick’s Sports Lounge discriminated against Ms. Lipp contrary to section 13(1) of the Human Rights Code on the ground of sex (pregnancy) and ordered the Company to pay to Ms. Lipp the sum of $7,500.00 as compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect and $2,000.00 in compensation for lost wages plus interest.
Further Reading: Lipp v. 0965319 B.C. Ltd. doing business as Maverick’s Sports Lounge