Ford in the expansion of its Canadian research and development presence is spending $500 million investment, adding more than 400 software and hardware engineers and plans to establish a new Ottawa Research and Engineering Centre. Many of the engineers came through a deal with BlackBerry. The move is causing a controversy with former BlackBerry employees who were transferred/hired by the Ford. Ford uses BlackBerry’s QNX software as part of its operating systems and Ford SYNC, it at first may seem like a win/win situation however the employees are crying foul.
The BlackBerry engineers that were transferred/fired to Ford filed a class action lawsuit. An Ottawa law firm is seeking more than $20-million in damages against BlackBerry Ltd., alleging the company misled employees who accepted a transfer to Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP has commenced a class action against BlackBerry on behalf of a group of BlackBerry’s employees working in Ontario and across Canada.
BlackBerry arranged to transfer over 300 employees across Canada. Only after employees accepted employment with the business partner, BlackBerry informed the employees that they had resigned their employment. BlackBerry provided resignation letters for the employees to sign and dictated their last date of employment. BlackBerry stated that the transfer is not a sale of business, meaning the employees will lose all of their years of service.
The lawsuit claims BlackBerry’s actions amount to a termination of the employees’ employment. This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination. BlackBerry has stated that it will not pay BlackBerry employees any of these entitlements, despite the fact that employees lose all of their years of service. They allege that BlackBerry has breached its duties of good faith and honesty, and has knowingly misled the employees. BlackBerry structured this transaction in such a way as to avoid paying these employees their statutory entitlements.
The suit seeks damages for the plaintiffs for minimum provincial statutory entitlements on termination, contractual entitlements on termination, and/or common law entitlements on termination. They are also seeking for bad faith and punitive damages, as well as costs.
Plaintiffs in the class action include individuals who were employees and/or dependent contractors of BlackBerry Limited in Canada, and who were offered and accepted employment with the business partner.
In a an news release the lawyers discouraged employees from signing letters from QNX/BlackBerry.