Appeal Court overturns $1M damage award to fisheries scientist

Appeal Court overturns $1M damage award to fisheries scientist

A fisheries scientist has lost out on a bid to collect more than $1 million from a former employer in a case of constructive dismissal.

Chemist Dave Matthews resigned from fish oil company Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. in 2011 after he said he'd been progressively stripped of his responsibilities at the company in Dartmouth, N.S. He said it amounted to constructive dismissal.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Arthur LeBlanc detailed in a ruling last year following trial how a couple of senior executives at Ocean Nutrition worked to undermine Matthews's position at the company. Matthews was reduced to about two hours of work each day.

Matthews took the company to court and won a judgment of $1,086,893. That dollar amount was based on an executive incentive plan that kicked in when the company was sold in 2012 to Dutch multinational Royal DSM for $540 million.

Trial judge wrong

But, in a decision released Thursday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled Leblanc was wrong to award those damages.

The Appeal Court based its decision on the wording of the incentive plan, which clearly stated that someone had to be an employee at the time of the sale of the company in order to be eligible for a share of the profits. Matthews had left Ocean Nutrition before the sale.

However, the Appeal Court did agree with LeBlanc that Matthews was constructively dismissed.

The court agreed that evidence from Matthews appeared credible, while LeBlanc was correct in determining that witnesses for the company were not.