Former employee to sue Rye over dismissal

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By Mariana Ionova
News Editor

A former Ryerson human resources employee is planning to sue Ryerson for damages related to his dismissal in July 2010.

Neil Kelly, a former HR faculty associate in the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science (FEAS), plans to seek monthly damages for the rest of his life. He believes Ryerson violated university policy when his job was declared redundant last year.

“Ryerson caused me to lose some $500 a month for life,” said Kelly.

Kelly’s position was declared redundant on July 29, 2010 and he was given a letter stating he would receive 20 weeks of pay and remain on payroll until his severance negotiations were over. Kelly was told he would have to negotiate his severance with Simon Mortimer, the university’s HR lawyer. At the time, he had worked at Ryerson for 12 years and was receiving a salary of $96,600.

Kelly requested 21 months of severance because the university had allegedly violated his employee rights and failed to follow the Redundancy Policy, which states employees who are declared redundant should be offered a lower position if it is vacant, career counselling totaling $5,000 or a tuition waiver of up to $3,500 that would further their skills for future employment. Kelly says he was not offered any of these.

In emails obtained by the Eyeopener, Mortimer wrote to Kelly that a severance of 21 months is “excessive and does not warrant a counter offer.”

After three months of negotiations, Mortimer notified Kelly that he would receive a total of 48 weeks, including a standard 12 weeks notice received by employees plus an additional three weeks for each year of service as outlined in the Redundancy Policy. He would also remain on payroll— receiving benefits and contributing to his pension plan — until Oct. 1.

The rest of Kelly’s severance would be paid in one lump sum on that day, after which the university considered the matter closed, wrote Mortimer.

“My biggest frustration was having to negotiate with Simon Mortimer for three months to get what should have been offered from day one with respect to the financial portion of the separation,” said Kelly.

But he believes his severance negotiations were forcibly concluded, which hurt his monthly pension. Kelly had intended to negotiate to remain on payroll while receiving his severance because that would have allowed him access to benefits and contribute to his pension and receive benefits. A pension consultant had estimated that his pension was reduced by approximately $500 per month as a result,

according to Kelly.

“I now have to sue Ryerson for what I was basically entitled to [under the Redundancy Policy],” said Kelly, adding that he now has to pay $725 each month for benefits for his family.

He is currently in the process of finding a lawyer that will take on the case.

But the Redundancy Policy states that employees’ benefits and pension contributions end the day they are dismissed from their positions.

Kelly’s former supervisor, FEAS dean Mohamed Lachemi declined to comment on Kelly’s termination. VP finance and administration Julia Hanigsberg and Mortimer also declined to speak about the matter, citing privacy issues surrounding labour relations.

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