Blasted Church Winery’s former head winemaker is taking the winery to court over an alleged breach of their employment termination contract.                                (Google Street View)

Blasted Church Winery’s former head winemaker is taking the winery to court over an alleged breach of their employment termination contract. (Google Street View)

Penticton-area winery sued by former head winemaker

Blasted Church’s former head winemaker Elaine Vickers is seeking $24,000 from the winery

An Okanagan winery is facing a bitter breakup with its former head winemaker.

Elaine Vickers filed a $24,000 lawsuit this week against Blasted Church Vineyards, whose winery is based along Eastside Road north of Okanagan Falls.

According to the lawsuit, Vickers entered into an employment contract with the winery in December 2010, and over time became the winery’s head winemaker. The contract required the winery to provide Vickers with “reasonable notice of termination.”

“At all times, the claimant faithfully and diligently performed her duties on behalf of the defendant and proved herself to be a valuable and reliable employee,” the lawsuit reads.

“On June 6, 2017, the defendant terminated the claimant’s employment without cause. This conduct constituted a breach of the employment contract, entitling the claimant to compensation.”

The two parties reportedly agreed that the winery would continue to pay Vickers for five months, starting on July 16, along with payments toward MSP and private extended health benefits until December.

If Vickers were to obtain employment elsewhere in that time, the winery would then pay Vickers 50 per cent of the remaining pay owed her in a lump sum and cease paying the health benefits.

Vickers’ lawsuit claims Blasted Church, headquartered in Kelowna, continued to pay her following that agreement, but just three months into the agreement, in mid-October, the winery unilaterally ceased further payments.

“The defendant alleged that the claimant had secured ‘alternate employment’ by reason of the fact that the claimant had made wine in a rental facility for her own purposes,” the lawsuit said.

But Vickers said she was not employed, nor did she receive any income, the wine would not be ready until March next year, and she had made the wine “without any commercial ambitions and had made no decision about whether she would sell the wine or give it away to friends and family.”

Despite that claim, the lawsuit alleges Blasted Church did not resume its payments toward Vickers, nor did it pay the 50-per-cent lump sum.

The lawsuit said Vickers had no additional sources of income.

On top of the money Vickers said the winery owes her — claimed to be $11,559.80 — her lawsuit claimed she is “entitled to additional moral damages and damages for the bad faith of the defendant.”

Those moral and bad faith damages are valued even higher than the salary claims, at $12,440.20, adding $176 for filing and service fees, adding up to $24,176.

According to the lawsuit, the winery’s unilateral move “constitutes an independent and actionable wrong and is deserving of condemnation and punishment for which the claimant is entitled to punitive damages.”

The lawsuit said the value of the bad faith and moral damages claim needs to be enough to discourage employers from behaviour similar to that alleged of Blasted Church.

“An employee should not be required to sue her employer to receive the relatively modest remaining benefits she is entitled to under an agreement to provide for salary continuance,” the lawsuit said.

Blasted Church has not filed a response.


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kierra Smith (Contributed)
Kelowna swimmer headed to Toronto hoping to qualify for Olympics

If she qualifies, it will be Kierra Smith’s second time swimming at the Olympics

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read