Thursday, March 21, 2013

Former Chelsea Football Club Sports Psychologist sues Vancouver Canucks over work permit dispute

An Italian sports psychologist has filed a claim with the British Columbia Supreme Court, claiming that the Vancouver Canucks are responsible for damages relating to wrongful dismissal and mental distress.

The psychologist, Mr. Demichelis, claims that the Vancouver Canucks and co-owner Mr. Aquilini induced him to leave his employment with the Chelsea Football Club in the United Kingdom and to work for the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver.

Mr. Demichelis claims that he initially declined the Canucks offer of employment but that he later accepted it after sustained efforts on the part of Mr. Aquilini and the team. Mr. Demichelis specifically states that the Vancouver Canucks stated to him that he was the person the Canucks needed to improve the players' physical and psychological well-being. Mr. Demichelis also claims that he was told that his expertise was essential to winning the Stanley Cup.

Mr. Demichelis further alleges that he agreed to a two year contract with the Canucks starting July 2012 for a salary of $700,000, along with a signing bonus of $400,000. He also states that the Canucks agreed to market Mr. Demichelis' expertise to other professional clubs in North America.

Mr. Demichelis was told in December 2012 that his employment would end at the end of January 2013. He claims that the club explained to him that, as part of the process of trying to secure him a work permit, they found Canadians that were able to fulfill the requirements of his role.

Mr. Demichelis claims that he has suffered significant damages in part because he gave up his employment in the United Kingdom and moved his family to Vancouver.

The Vancouver Canucks have yet to file a Statement of Defence.

What does this mean for employers?

This case demonstrates the potential pitfalls in the employment of foreigners. In particular, employers can face significant liability when disputes arise from the hiring and/or employment of temporary foreign workers. This issue is becoming increasing commonplace in large part because of the exponential growth in the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada. There are now approximately 250,000 individuals entering Canada on an annual basis under a temporary work permit, and 500,000 temporary foreign workers in the country at any given time.

Employers should accordingly ensure that they receive adequate employment and immigration advice to ensure that all matters relating to the hiring of foreign workers are addressed adequately and in a seamless fashion. This can help to ensure that employers are in the best position to defend against claims should disputes arise.

Sharaf Sultan
Associate
Heenan Blaikie LLP
ssultan@heenan.ca

This article was originally published on the Heenan Blaikie website here


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