The Ontario Divisional Court has sided with The Globe and Mail in its dispute with Jan Wong, a former reporter ordered to pay back a $209,912 settlement with the newspaper after she revealed some of its confidential terms in a tell-all book.
In a decision released on Monday, the court upheld a July, 2013, decision by a labour arbitrator to order Ms. Wong to pay back the settlement, even though she did not disclose the actual amount she was paid in her self-published 2012 memoir, Out of the Blue, which details her battles with depression and with The Globe.
The Globe pursued the case after it objected to several phrases in Ms. Wong's book, in which she wrote that the paper had paid her "a pile of money to go away," and that a "big fat check [sic] landed in my account."
In Monday's decision from the three-judge panel of the Divisional Court, Justice Ian Nordheimer found that Ms. Wong did not even have standing to appeal the decision, rejecting her contention that her union failed to represent her properly.
However, Justice Nordheimer still found that Ms.Wong's interpretation that she could write about her settlement with The Globe as long she never mentioned the actual amount she received was "indefensible."
Ms. Wong's fight with her former employer dates back to September, 2006, when she was covering the Dawson College shooting in Montreal. The Globe published a story in which Ms. Wong linked the shooting to the marginalization of immigrants in Quebec, because the shooter was not a so-called pure laine Quebecker. The story provoked a storm of criticism, including from then-premier Jean Charest.
The personal attacks on Ms. Wong that followed prompted her to spiral into a "severe depression," Monday's court decision recounts. Ms. Wong was off work from October, 2006, to spring of 2007, but then suffered a "severe setback" and left work again, the decision reads.
The Globe refused to pay sick leave for Ms. Wong between June and November, 2007, and terminated her employment when in May, 2008, when she refused to return to work.
The dispute was referred to a labour arbitrator and a confidential settlement was reached in 2008. In the settlement, The Globe acknowledged that Ms. Wong was "ill and unable to work" from June to November, 2007, and agreed to pay her the sick leave she was owed for that period, as well as a lump-sum payment of two years' pay, or $209,912.