After a Canadian labor judge found that Cathay Pacific should pay a former office manager at its now-defunct Vancouver cabin crew headquarters CAD $170,000 in severance, the airline was ordered to pay the former employee 19 months’ earnings as damages.
When Cathay Pacific decided to close its Vancouver base in the midst of the epidemic, Frances Turcic Okano had worked for the airline for nearly 35 years. When she was told in October 2020 that the office would be permanently shuttered, she was given only two months’ warning.
Cathay Pacific had already closed another cabin crew base in Toronto, as well as three crew bases in the United States: New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, by this time.
After months of anti-government riots in Hong Kong in 2019, the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 threw Cathay Pacific into a full-fledged catastrophe, as travel demand vanished overnight.
As Cathay Pacific consolidated its operations at home, the airline started on a significant cost-cutting initiative, with overseas stations slated for closure.
Despite the fact that the Vancouver base was given notice of possible closure as early as March 2020, the final decision didn’t come for another eight months, and Okano was paid a three-month severance compensation of $31,613.72 in early 2021, as required by the Canada Labour Code.
Cathay Pacific had offered Okano a larger severance package, but she turned it down because she felt she deserved more.
Cathay Pacific agreed that Okano was entitled to damages for unfair dismissal, but argued for 18 to 20 months’ pay in place of notice, rather than the 24 to 26 months that Okano claimed.
Okano was entitled to 24 months’ pay in lieu of notice, but Supreme Court Justice Gordon C. Weatherill cut that sum by three months since Okano had not taken “reasonable steps” to find new work.
Okano was granted $168,609.28 in total compensation, plus $1,764 in special damages for a leadership course she completed to improve her résumé.