A nasty legal battle between the leadership of Delta’s Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) and its founder and longtime executive director resumes early next year.
An appeal is scheduled to be heard Jan. 28 in the case of Bev Day and OWL, which lost its Supreme Court case against Day who won her countersuit and was awarded $140,000.
In late 2014, OWL, now appealing, fired Day without notice and allegedly for cause.
The society commenced a lawsuit 2015, suing Day for breach of contract, claiming, among other things, 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, which had a number of allegations, dragged due to a number of delays.
In reasons for judgement last year, 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.
OWL’s Bev Day is shown receiving a cheque from young bird enthusiast Joel Sagar in 2014. She was fired later that year and the B.C. Supreme Court determined it was unjustified.
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’s ruling, highly critical of OWL’s lawsuit, also ruled the society 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.”
A recent scathing additional reasons for judgment for special costs ruling noted the society’s “abandoned misappropriation allegations also constitutes reprehensible conduct” but she was not awarded punitive damages. The judge, though, noted aggravated damages were awarded heavily on litigation conduct.
In an interview last fall, Day admitted it’s been tough not being involved in the organization she not only loved, but one that was very much a part of her identity over several decades.
Trying to maintain her infectious laugh, Day got tearful when talking about her split with the group she founded, saying it’s been physically and emotionally draining since her firing.
“Even after they fired me I still ended up getting night calls because everybody knew us. The community was behind me and I had so many people tell me they’re glad we won the case but this has been so much stress. That was my life, everything, basically for 40 years.”