Jackson v Guardian Life Ltd

 
FREE EXCERPT

Supreme Court

Brooks, J.

253 of 2005

Jackson
and
Guardian Life Limited
Appearances:

Mr. H. Charles Johnson for claimant.

Mr. Jermaine Spence and Miss Kedian Francis instructed by DunnCox for defendant.

Employment law - Sales representative — Wrongful termination of contract of service — Employer terminated with notice for reasons which justified dismissal — Employer not required to provide all reasons for dismissal.

Brooks, J.
1

Mr. Rudolph Jackson was a successful life insurance sales representative. His success resulted in his being employed as a branch manager to Guardian Life Limited. It seems however, the demands of the post of branch manager resulted in pressures which were too much for his abilities at that time. When his performance fell below the acceptable level in a specific area, Guardian Life issued him a notice terminating his contract as a sales representative and, by extension, as a branch manager. He seeks compensation for wrongful termination of his contract.

2

Guardian Life rejects his contention. It asserts that its contract with Mr. Jackson allowed for the termination as it was done, and therefore it owes him no further obligation.

3

The sole question of law to be answered is whether Guardian Life acted in accordance with the terms of the contract when it issued the letter of termination. There is also a question of fact as to whether Mr. Jackson was, thereafter, refused access to Guardian's premises and whether, as a result, he was in fact dismissed without notice.

THE RELEVANT TERMS OF THE CONTRACT
4

It should be stated at the outset that Mr. Jackson held two contracts with Guardian Life. They are both dated 1st October, 1999 and are entitled respectively, “Contract for Branch Manager (Jamaica)” and “Sales Representative (Jamaica)”. The former contract refers to the latter as, “the Prior Contract”. The relevant terms of the branch manager's contract are stipulated at clause 6 thereof. The clause states in part:

“Termination

  • 6. This Contract may be terminated at any time by Ninety (90) days written notice by either party provided, however that if the Branch Manager:

    • a) fails to observe or perform any of the obligations on his part contained in this Contract then the Contract shall terminate without notice, or

    • b) The Prior Contract is terminated for any reason whatsoever then this Contract shall terminate at the same time as the Prior Contract….

  • 7. All provisions of the Prior Contract with respect to service of notices shall apply to this Contract as if the same were specifically incorporated herein.” (Emphasis supplied)

5

It would have been seen that clause 6(b) allows for the termination of the branch manager's contract as a necessary result of the termination of the sales representative's contract.

6

The relevant clauses in. the sales representative's contract are clauses 3(h), 13 and 14. Clause 3(h) speaks to minimum standards which a sales representative is obliged to maintain. It states:

“Minimum Production Requirements h) The Representative will be required to meet the minimum production and persistency quotas set by the Company for each year of the term of this Contract. Such quotas for each year shall be notified to the Representative on or before the 1st January in each year. Until any such quota is set the quota set out in the Commission Schedule shall apply.”

7

Clause 13 allows for termination by either party upon notice in writing. The pertinent portions state:

“13. Termination

  • a) This Contract may be terminated at any time by either party giving to the other notice in writing specifying the date of such termination which shall be not more than 30 days from the effective date of such notice in the case of a notice given by the Company. In the case of a notice given by the Representative the date of receipt thereof by the Company; such notice shall be delivered within three (3) days of its date…”

  • d) Should the Representative:…

    • ii) fail to observe or perform any of the obligations on his part contained in this contract…

    then, in any or all such events, the Company shall have the right to summarily terminate this Contract upon notice in writing to the Representative;”

8

Clause 14 speaks to the consequences of termination. Clause 14 (e) states:

“14. Rights and obligations on Termination

  • e) If this Contract is terminated as provided for under clause 13(d) hereof, all commissions, bonus, rights, benefits and privileges granted under this Contract shall cease and be forfeited as from the date of the notice mentioned therein.

9

It is now to be determined whether Guardian Life, in seeking to terminate the contract, adhered to the terms of the agreement concerning termination.

10

The letter of termination

11

The majority of the contents of the termination letter need to be quoted as they are critical to the analysis and decision to be made. It was dated November 9, 2004 and stated, in part:

“We refer to Memorandum dated October 11, 2004 from the undersigned to all Branch Managers in which you were advised of forthcoming performance reviews.

The review of Agents, Unit and Branch Managers' performance was conducted as at October 31, 2004. Based on your failure to achieve the required persistency performance standards, your Sales Representative contract with the company dated October 1, 1999, is terminated effective November 30, 2004 in accordance with clause 13(d) ii) (sic) thereof. In addition, your Contract For (sic) Branch Manager also...

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