It was an ugly breakup between the Delta society that rehabilitates injured birds of prey and its longtime executive director who founded the organization.
It was a breakup so ugly that it eventually ended up in Bev Day and the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) taking each other to court.
OWL lost its case, while Day won her lawsuit and has been awarded around $140,000.
In late 2014, OWL fired Day without notice and allegedly for cause. The society commenced its lawsuit 2015, suing Day for breach of contract, claiming she failed in her contractual duty to ensure that OWL’s bookkeeper deduct her rent from her paycheques and failed to reimburse OWL for those payments. The society characterized Day’s conduct as “misappropriation” but later dropped that statement.
However, it still advanced an alternative claim for “unjust enrichment.”
Denying the allegation, Day launched a counterclaim for wrongful dismissal. After her counterclaim was filed, the society responded with additional grounds for termination, including Day paying herself unauthorized salary and vacation pay, as well as insubordination.
The case would drag on until this year due to a number of delays.
In reasons for judgement released this week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge noted the society’s own documents and the evidence of its former bookkeepers clearly demonstrate there was never any basis for its claims that Day received unauthorized payments.
It was ruled that Day’s employment was wrongly terminated, without cause, because OWL’s board of directors “rushed to judgment and assumed the worst possible construction of alleged events involving Ms. Day, having carried out only a partial and scant investigation. The reasons put forward by the board at the time of Ms. Day’s termination were factually inaccurate and did not justify her dismissal.”
The judge noted OWL was obliged, as part of its employment contract with Day, to pay the cost of her on-site residence.
It was also determined there was no merit to OWL’s claim “that Ms. Day was appropriately dismissed for neglecting her job duties for several years prior to her termination.”
The judge noted that OWL “was a significant and consuming part of her life and sense of self-worth and her vulnerability at the time of termination and thereafter as she was forced to defend meritless claims concerning her honesty and character.”
The award to Day included, among other things, 24-months' severance and $30,000 in aggravated damages.