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Legal Issues and Lessons Learned from a Chartered Accountant's Job Transfer



Parker, a chartered accountant employed as a controller and living in Calgary, was bored with his job.  He applied to an Oshawa based software company that was advertising for a chartered accountant to help in the development of new accounting software.   At the job interview, Peterson, the manager of research and development, described the new venture and told Parker that the position would involve advising on accounting standards for many new products, addressing such thing as cash flow management, inventory controls, accounts receivables, and more.  Parker was told that the company would commit significant funds to the project for the next 11 years.  This position was the first of many accounting jobs.  It was implied that Parker (if hired) would become senior management, supervising employees hired subsequently.  Formal plans for this arrangement were not yet finalized by the executive committee but the plan was that it would be in place before Parker’s start date of March 1. 

This was exactly the type of new challenge Parker was looking for, so when Peterson called to offer him the job of manager, financial standards, Parker accepted immediately.  A few days later he received the employment contract by email, signed it and returned it by courier.  The job description said that Parker would supply accounting expertise required by the employer.  Parker and his wife quit their jobs, sold their house in Calgary, bought a smaller, more expensive house in Oshawa, and moved across the country.

When the executive committee met in April to consider the development plan, they decided the plan was too aggressive and approved only the development of one aspect – cash-flow management.  The project would be funded for only five months.  Parker commenced work on May 1 and helped design the cash flow software.  When he asked Peterson about the next phase, he was told that it was not yet going to proceed.  No other accountants were hired and, after five months, Parker was transferred to the accounting department to do typical controller work similar to his job in Calgary.  He was unhappy with the transfer and quit.


Q1. What are the possible legal issues involved in this case?

Q2. What do you believe will be the probable outcome of this case? Cite any relevant cases.

Q3. Would it make a difference to your answer if the contract of employment included a term that the employer might transfer or reassign the employee to another position within the company at any time and a term that all agreements between the parties were included in the written document?

Q4.  What are some lessons business professionals can learn from this case?

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