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Report On Business BlackBerry to face class-action lawsuit from employees over Ford partnership

A Blackberry sign is seen in front of their offices in Waterloo.

An Ottawa law firm is preparing to file a class-action lawsuit 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. as part of a strategic partnership.

Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP filed a notice of action on Wednesday in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of David Parker, a 14-year employee of BlackBerry who claims he accepted a transfer to Ford before being told that he would not receive any termination benefits from BlackBerry or retain his years of service. The firm claims more than 100 workers in the Ottawa area were affected by the transfers, with as many as 200 more employees affected elsewhere in Canada.

The filing claims this amounts to a breach of good faith, and that it misled the workers with a transaction that circumvents statutory entitlements. In addition to punitive damages, the suit will seek any severance benefits to which terminated employees would be entitled.

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Sarah McKinney, director of corporate communications for BlackBerry, offered the following statement Friday morning: "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."

The class-action lawsuit has not yet been filed or certified. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The employee moves were part of a deal the smartphone pioneer made with the auto maker in October, 2016, to improve Ford's in-car infotainment and assisted-driving systems. BlackBerry said at the time a team of QNX engineers would help integrate such products as the QNX Neutrino operating system, Certicom encryption technology, QNX Hypervisor (a heads-up display system for windshields) and QNX audio-processing software.

"As we announced in October, we are working with Blackberry to expand the use of Blackberry's QNX and security software to help ensure we deliver a high-quality and highly-secure experience for our customers," said Michelle Lee-Gracey, Communications Manager for Ford of Canada. "We are not going to comment beyond what we announced."

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