Judge awards more than $60,000 in damages to former MCRCI employee

A BC Supreme Court judge has awarded more than $60,000 in damages to a former employee of a medical cannabis clinic in Vancouver.

The ruling, posted on December 22, 2020, involves a former employee of the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI) and their parent company Global Health Clinics Ltd. MCRCI has operated as a clinic connecting patients with doctors who can authorize access to medical cannabis since 2010. 

MCRCI’s flagship location is in Vancouver, although it has also operated in Kamloops, BC and Quebec, and has provided telemedicine services for residents in other provinces. Global Health Clinics acquired MCRCI in 2018. Global Health Clinics Ltd. was incorporated in 2013 and is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. They are publicly traded.

The case involved the claim of wrongful termination of employment of an employee, who argued she was treated poorly and not properly compensated, and was fired without notice or reason. The plaintiff, Carly Fobert, sought damages for reasonable notice, aggravated damages and punitive damages.

The judge in the case, The Honourable Margot L. Fleming, supported Fobert’s argument, awarding her an amount equal to eight weeks pay, less the portion of funds she received under an Employment Standards Branch (ESB) settlement for two weeks’ severance in damages for reasonable notice, as well as $25,000 in aggravated damages and $35,000 in punitive damages.

Judge Fleming said she awarded the amount in large part because she found the treatment of Fobert by a representative of the clinic to be an “appalling, harsh and reprehensible” form of bullying.

The details of the case show that the plaintiff had been fired without notice and had to fight not only for back pay but for severance. Despite attempting to seek payment from her former employer on several occasions, Fobert was told there was no money available. 

On December 8, 2017, Fobert, now 26, was hired by MCRCI to work as an intake specialist. On May 24, 2019 Fobert’s employment was terminated without notice. On June 5, 2019 she was instructed to a meeting with a representative for the company to discuss her claims. At this time, Fobert met Justin Liu, a representative for the company, who accused her and her former employers of misplacing and misusing money and offered her $500 to sign a contract promising to not seek any further compensation. Fobert denied the request and sought legal counsel. 

It was largely this meeting with Liu, that Forbes recorded, that led to the judge awarding the aggravated and punitive damages. In the meeting, Liu accused Forbes, who had no signing authority on expenses, of “misplacing a lot of money” on food and hotels, using what the judge said was “intimidating language and repeatedly engaged in a range of bullying tactics.”

At one point, Liu told Forbes that others had already signed the contract, and she was the only one who hadn’t. He told her if she didn’t take the $500 that day, she would have to take him to court. 

“Yeah. So everyone wants to sign off and just — the days you work, everyone gets paid. But if everyone is looking for severance and wants more and more and more, I will fucking go the distance. I don’t care.”

Liu continued: “  …I actually feel bad, and that’s why I’m offering you the 500, because anyone else, like, any other person I’ve had the conversation with, I just told to fuck off. So you can go through the employment board … we’re not worried about that. So you can – or you can take the $500 and sign the document and we can both go our own ways.

Although a representative for MCRCI, Danilen Villanueva, told the court that Mr Liu was not authorized to represent MCRCI or Global Health, the Judge found her testimony not credible. Although listed as a witness, Liu refused to testify. Villanueva did identify Liu as a shareholder in Global Health.

Connections to other cases

Liu was mentioned in another recent case involving a cannabis company that was investigated by the BC Securities Commission. A Coast Reporter article from 2019 identifies Liu as being involved in multiple cannabis dispensaries. 

He was also listed as a director of Green Tree Dispensary Society and an article from Vice in 2017 connected Liu to another dispensary, WeeMedical, also run by his mother May Joan Liu. May Joan Liu was involved in a penny stock scandal in 2000 and three companies she was affiliated with were halted and suspended by the Vancouver Stock Exchange for violating trading rules.

WeeMed and Green Tree were accused in the Vice article of poor treatment by employees, including being left without any assistance from ownership following raids by the police.

VICE’s investigation of Green Tree/WeeMedical included workers’ allegations that they were “exploited by their former employers, including being overworked, underpaid, bullied, pressured to sell moldy weed, forbidden from calling the cops when they were robbed, forced to work without heat in winter, and abandoned when they were arrested. It also included allegations of secretive owners, alleged safehouses, armed robberies, connections to organized crime, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.”

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