Alberta employee fired for ‘working from home’ in Mexico

B.C. Supreme Court rules Dean Ernst can be fired for not requesting permission to move to Mexico

Many people work from home to avoid commute or to wait for the cable guy to come. But for one man from Alberta, the idea of working from home meant being in Mexico.

However, the man was fired for his stunt. The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled the company is entitled to do so because the employee moved to Mexico without approval, reports the Toronto Star.

Dean Ernst was hired in March of 2007 by a company called Destiny Software Productions Inc. to be their vice president of operations. Ernst made $125,000 for the role. His contract stated he would initially work out of his home near Calgary, but would have to move to Vancouver if it were required. If this happened, Destiny would pay for the moving expenses.

In July of 2007, Destiny moved offices in Vancouver and asked Ernst to start working from the office. Ernst told it that because of family ties to the community and his mother's poor health, he'd rather not move. In December, he took possession of a house in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Over the next six months he called in sick many times when his family was vacationing in Mexico.

In July 2008, the family sold its Alberta home and moved to Mexico permanently. Ernst set up the phone so it looked like an Alberta number. The next month, Ernst told his boss he was going to work from Mexico, but wasn't fired immediately because the company was in the middle of a big deal. Three days after it signed that deal in November, Ernst was fired and later brought action of wrongful dismissal.

In a recent decision, the judge ruled Ernst breached the employment contract by moving to Mexico and the firing was justified.

Daniel A. Lublin, an employment lawyer with Whitten & Lublin, writes in a Metro Canada article that employees sometimes forget who calls the legal shots.

"Ernst interpreted their agreement to mean that, as a work-from-home employee, he could work from anywhere that he wanted," writes Lublin. However, Ernst's employer and the courts disagreed, saying the contract stated he had to work from Canada and couldn't move without permission.

"Ernst simply lost sight of who was entitled to call the shots," writes Lublin, who suggests clarifying your contract to avoid conflict. "When this occurs, an employer may be able to treat the employee's actions as insubordination or worse, as Ernst learned, cause for his own dismissal."

Ernst, who used to be president of a company called Promo Only Canada, is currently listed as a business consultant at LED Source, according to his LinkedIn profile. He is also listed as a Calgary area resident.