Jian Ghomeshi’s Lawsuit And The Current State Of The Law On Civil Claims By Unionized Employees

Jian Ghomeshi has withdrawn his $55,000,000 lawsuit against his former employer, the CBC. The reasons Ghomeshi chose to drop the suit have not yet been made clear, but the current state of the law likely would have made his claims difficult to advance in a civil suit.

The CBC had previously filed a Notice of Motion asking the Court to dismiss the former radio host's lawsuit against the public broadcaster. Mere days after that notice of motion was filed, the Supreme Court dismissed, with costs, an application for leave to appeal a decision dealing with the very issue of whether a unionized employee (like Ghomeshi) can sue their employer.

The application for leave to appeal dismissed by the Supreme Court was from the Alberta Court of Appeal decision in Beaulieu v. University of Alberta, 2014 ABCA 137, which was argued successfully by lawyers at Field Law.

In Beaulieu, the employee was a University Professor governed by the terms of a Collective Agreement. The employee sued the Governors of the University of Alberta along with the Dean of the Professor's Faculty and the Chair of his department alleging harassment, denial of access to research funding records, breach of a settlement agreement, breach of confidentiality, defamation, intentional infliction of mental suffering and a failure to stop disciplinary proceedings to accommodate his medical condition. The University Respondents applied to strike the Professor's claim on the basis that the Court lacked jurisdiction because the dispute resolution procedures and the Collective Agreement provided for the exclusive forum for the resolution of the dispute between the parties. The Chambers Judge did strike the Statement of Claim and the Professor appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

On the basis of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Weber v. Ontario Hydro, [1995] 2 SCR 99, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Professor's appeal. The Court held:

[36] Where labour legislation and a collective agreement establish a dispute resolution procedure, that procedure must be followed and should not be duplicated or undermined by concurrent court action: Weber at para. 58; Young Estate at para. 29. Under this exclusive jurisdiction model, if the dispute between the parties arises from the collective agreement, the courts have no jurisdiction to entertain an action in respect of the dispute: Weber at 50. The core issue is whether the dispute arises from the collective agreement. That issue is...

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