BlackBerry Ltd Sued For Allegedly Misleading Employees About Ford Partnership [Updated]

BlackBerry may face a class-action lawsuit seeking more than $20 million in damages for allegedly misleading employees who accepted a transfer to Ford Motors as part of a strategic partnership. An Ottawa law firm is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Waterloo-based company, accusing it of denying employees their termination entitlements, notes CBC News.

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About 300 employees affected

On Wednesday, Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP filed a notice of action in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of David Parker, an employee of the Canadian firm who claims that he accepted a transfer to Ford Motor Co. Canada before being told that he would not retain his years of service or get any termination benefits from BlackBerry.

More than 100 workers in Ottawa area were affected by the transfers, claims the law firm, adding that about 200 more employees were affected elsewhere in Canada. The filing claims that the Canadian firm misled workers with a transaction that circumvents statutory entitlements, and this amounts to a breach of good faith. The suit, in addition to punitive damages, will seek any severance benefits to which the terminated employees would otherwise be entitled, notes The Globe and Mail.

The employees’ transfers were part of a deal that BlackBerry made with the automaker in October to improve its assisted driving systems and in-car infotainment. At that time, the Waterloo-based company said a team of QNX engineers would assist in integrating products such as the QNX Hypervisor (a heads-up display system for windshields), Certicom encryption technology, QNX audio-processing software and QNX Neutrino operating system.

BlackBerry accused of misleading employees

The Waterloo-based company arranged to transfer some employees to Ford Motor Co. Canada in the fall of 2016 but then informed them that they had resigned once they accepted employment with the company, said the notice of the claim.

According to the suit, the employees were given resignation letters that stipulated their last date of employment.

“BlackBerry’s actions amount to a termination of the employees [sic] employment,” the statement said. “This entitles these employees to statutory, common law and/or contractual entitlements on termination.”

To avoid paying the termination entitlements, the Canadian firm structured the transfer of the employees in such a way that it is refusing to pay them, said the notice of claim. The class-action lawsuit has not been certified or filed, and none of the allegations are proven in the court yet, notes The Globe and Mail. As of now, there have been no comments from BlackBerry on the matter.

Updated the article with comments from BlackBerry over the case.

“We have reviewed the allegations in the lawsuit, and are confident we complied with all our obligations to our employees. Therefore, we believe the case lacks merit, and we will defend against it vigorously,” Sarah McKinney, BlackBerry’s Director of Corporate Communications, told ValueWalk.