Lawyer faces criminal charges after clients act on his advice

| Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 | No Comments »

New York lawyer Felix Q. Vinluan, has been criminally charged on 13 counts after 10 nurses quit their job, allegedly on his advice.

The charges stem from an April 7, 2006 incident in which 10 clients of Mr. Vinluan mutually resigned from their position with Sentosa Care, a Long Island health care facility they worked for. The district attorney’s office said the mass resignation endangered 6 critically ill patients, 5 of which were children — because the resignations were not provided with advanced notice. 

The workers, who all immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 2005, held at-will contracts. Vinluan claims, and his client’s attest, that he simply advised them that as an at-will employee, their employment could be terminated at anytime by either the employer or employee.

The County D.A.’s office claims that Mr. Vinluan went beyond his normal scope of giving advice and instead, encouraged the workers to submit their resignation. District attorney Lato said in a recent interview "If all Mr. Vinluan did was advise, rather than ‘encourage,’ he wouldn’t have been charged."

Vinluan asserts he is a target stemming from collusion between Sentosa’s attorney’s and County D.A. Spota after claims of a "secret meeting" between the two have surfaced. He further iterates Sentosa cannot afford to lose out on its pool of immigrant workers and is afraid of other worker’s doing the same as his 10 clients.

Canadian employees are not subject to at-will employment and any attempt to insert language into their employment relatinship that provides less generous severance that the minimum employment standards is invalid.

The issue of wrongful resignations is more interesting.  Similar to the employers’ obligation to provide advance notice of termination, employees must provide advance notice of their resignations, assuming there is no such contractual term that specifies another amount.  The amount of notice is dependant on how long it would reasonably take the employer to find a suitable replacement.  While wrongful resignation lawsuits in Canada are rare (proving a tangible economic loss is the reason), employees must still be careful.   

Even more interesting is whether or not Mr. Vinluan will be convicted.  The full article, found on Law.com, can be read here.

Daniel A. Lublin is a Canadian employment lawyer practicing exclusively in the law of wrongful dismissal. He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com or through his website, www.toronto-employmentlawyer.com.   

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