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McDonald’s loses appeal; fired Ottawa manager to get more than $100,000 for wrongful dismissal





Esther Brake, the longtime McDonalds manager who was recently awarded a $100k judgement in her wrongful dismissal case, stands victorious outside a set of Golden Arches in Ottawa.

Julie Oliver / Postmedia

Esther Brake is lovin’ it.

The fired McDonald’s manager who successfully sued after she was told she’d have to take a humiliating demotion or lose her job had reason to smile.

On Tuesday, Ontario’s highest court upheld a ruling by an Ottawa judge finding that the 67-year-old grandmother had been “set up to fail” and was constructively dismissed after more than 25 years working at McDonald’s restaurants in Ottawa and Newfoundland.

The court of appeal also found no reason to alter the judge’s decision to order McDonald’s to pay Brake $104.499.33 — plus interest and costs — to make up for the lack of notice and damages she suffered as a result. That’s on top of the additional $120,000 the company that manages the restaurant has been ordered to pay to cover Brake’s legal costs.

“I’m on top of the world,” said Brake Tuesday. “It means everything to me. I’m very, very happy that the courts took the time to listen to an individual who took a company like McDonald’s on, and we won.”

Brake said she hopes the appeal court’s decision will finally end the legal saga that began in 2012 after she was told she’d have to take a demotion to first assistant or be fired. The demotion didn’t involve a reduced salary, but would require Brake to report to a much younger manager she herself had trained, along with a significant loss in benefits.

The ultimatum came after Brake received her first negative performance review in November 2011 after a decade of positive assessments, court heard. Following that negative review, she was transferred from the restaurant she managed on Hazeldean Road to one of the worst performing McDonald’s in the country, located in the back corner of a Walmart store at the Kanata Centrum.

The judge found Brake was then put on a disciplinary program and subjected to performance standards that were arbitrary and unfair. Brake testified she worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for five months. Brake achieved what the court described as “outstanding” scores compared with McDonald’s own corporate standards in customer service and quality and cleanliness, but just narrowly missed a third goal. Brake was told she had failed the program and would have to take the demotion or leave.

After leaving McDonald’s, she tried to find other management jobs, but got no offers. Attempts to set up a babysitting service and work as a cleaner also failed. Eventually she took a job with Tim Hortons, and later Home Depot as a cashier.

Brake said she is looking forward to her former employer finally paying up. But Brake doesn’t have any intention of quitting her current job — she had to dip into her retirement savings to survive after she left McDonald’s.

“I haven’t got anything yet,” said Brake. “Yes, it’s a lot of money but at the end of the day I have to watch every cent to keep on living.”

The owners of the McDonald’s franchise could still try to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but the test for cases is stringent. Only a small percentage of cases are ever heard by the country’s top court.

A lawyer representing the McDonald’s franchise didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday.

“My gut tells me this is over,” said Brake’s lawyer, Miriam Vale Peters. “Five years later she’ll see her money. That’s the reality of Esther Brake.”

Vale Peters said she never expected the case to drag on as long as it has.

“This is a case that I never thought would go this far,” she said. “In my experience, 99 cases out of 100 settle. I’m surprised, and I continued to be surprised up until the day I was to be in court, that we were still there.”

The court noted in an earlier decision that the judgments in the case could have been avoided if the McDonald’s offers to settle weren’t so “woefully inadequate.”

Brake said people have come up to her in the Home Depot store where she works now and told her they were proud of her for taking McDonald’s to court. Brake said she feels vindicated by the decisions from the two courts.

“The first thing I would tell anybody is, if they feel they are being treated unfairly — it’s a tough battle, I’m not saying it’s an easy battle — I tell them, ‘Go for it. Don’t hold back. Go for it.’ If you tell the truth, you could win.”


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Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics to commercialize Canada’s first automated heavy duty trucks





Canadian Tire Corporation and Toronto based start-up NuPort Robotics, Canada’s first autonomous trucking company, are partnering with the Ontario government to invest $3 million to undertake an automated heavy duty trucking project to test a “first-of-its-kind-in-the-world” technology. 

The breakthrough technology provides a transportation solution for the middle mile, the short-haul shuttle runs that semi-tractor trailers make between distribution centres, warehouses and terminals each day.

It is designed to enable next-generation automated trucks that are more fuel efficient, safer to operate, and provide an enhanced driver experience.

Backed by $1 million in support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network and matched by $1 million investments from Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics, respectively, the two-year project is applying proprietary, artificial intelligence technology from NuPort Robotics to retrofit two conventional semi-tractor trailers – which will always be attended by a driver – with high-tech sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other advanced features such as obstacle and collision avoidance.

Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, says: “Ontario is proud to be a global leader in automated and connected vehicle technology and this innovative project is an exciting milestone toward automated vehicle tech in the trucking industry.

“Ontarians rely on goods being delivered by trucks across the province every day and projects like this are demonstrating the ways that automated truck technology could help businesses meet delivery demands more efficiently while supporting a strong supply chain in Ontario.”

Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, says: “This project applies unique and made-in-Ontario Artificial Intelligence technology that offers increased safety and efficiency, with a reduced carbon footprint, to the goods supply chains on which we all rely.

“This is the latest example of how Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network acts as a catalyst, fostering partnerships between ambitious technology start-ups and industry to develop and commercialize next generation transportation technologies that strengthen our economy and benefit society.”

Raghavender Sahdev, CEO of NuPort Robotics, says: “The trucks are currently transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 12.5 mile radius, and early results are promising.

“The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety.

“The sensors work as a ‘safety cocoon’ to cover blind spots and prevent accidents and the end result is peak fuel efficiency, meaning lower carbon emissions, and peak driving performance for an overall more optimal transportation experience.”

NuPort Robotic’s approach to autonomous trucking is unique in the industry because it focuses only on solving the middle mile challenge, using a known set of predetermined trucking routes that are repetitive and high frequency as opposed to general highway driving.

Ultimately, when implemented on fixed routes in the future, Canadian Tire will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability.

Gary Fast, vice-president of transportation, Canadian Tire, says: “Canadian Tire embraces innovation and is always testing new technologies to improve our operational efficiency and safety.

“As proud Canadian companies, the safety of all stakeholders, including drivers, employees, customers, and public will be the top priority as we work together towards deployment of this technology.”

Cari Covent, vice president of intelligent automation, Canadian Tire, says: “Over the last three years, Canadian Tire has made a significant effort to solve complex business problems by using the Canadian start-up Artificial Intelligence ecosystem, and NuPort Robotics exemplifies what we look for in a start-up with a focus on innovation, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Sahdev says: “As NuPort Robotics continues to develop new technologies to overcome middle mile supply chain problems and advance autonomous trucking, I am extremely grateful for the support of the Ontario Government through AVIN and the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

“With their continued support, we are striving to position Canada as the leader in autonomous transportation.”

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Constellation Software is money in the bank, this fund manager says





If you’re looking for a long-term hold in Canadian tech then Constellation Software (Constellation Software Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:CSU) should definitely be on your radar. So says Jason Del Vicario of Hillside Wealth Management who likes not only Constellation but its recent spin-off Topicus (Topicus Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:TOI) which Del Vicario says could do even better than CSU over the next ten years.

Software consolidator Constellation has been running on the same game plan for years, buying small vertical market software companies providing so-called mission critical software solutions globally. Over the years CSU has completed over 500 such acquisitions, buying the top names in their respective niche verticals and then using its clout and breadth to grow the business and expand into new markets. The resulting cash flow is then plowed back into more acquisitions and the cycle repeats.

The strategy has worked wonders for Constellation, which has grown its revenue from $631 million in 2010 to almost $4 billion for 2020 while taking earnings from $4.12 per share in 2010 to $20.59 per share this past year.

Shareholders were given a special treat last month when Constellation spun out recently acquired Topicus, giving CSU owners about 1.9 Topicus shares for every Constellation share as a dividend-in-kind. Constellation bought Netherlands-based software company Total Specific Solutions BV (or TSS) in 2013 and that subsidiary recently acquired Topicus BV, a Dutch information service company focusing on sectors such as healthcare, education and finance.

Topicus was singled out by Constellation founder Mark Leonard for its ability to grow without using outside shareholder funding. Leonard said the spin-out was part of the intention since a purchase agreement was struck last year.

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Nuvei wins price target raise from National Bank





Strong quarterly results and an even brighter outlook for 2021 are reasons to celebrate for Canadian payments company Nuvei (Nuvei Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:NVEI), according to National Bank Financial analyst Richard Tse. In an update to clients on Wednesday, Tse left his rating unchanged at “Outperform” while raising his price target from C$85.00 to C$100.00.

Montreal-headquartered Nuvei is a provider of payment technology solutions to merchants and partners around the world, with a platform geared for high-growth mobile commerce and e-commerce markets. Nuvei’s solutions include a fully integrated payments engine with global processing capabilities, a turnkey checkout solution and a suite of data-driven business intelligence and risk management tools and services.

The company released its fourth quarter and full year 2020 financials on Wednesday, showing Q4 revenue of $115.9 million, up 46 per cent year-over-year, and adjusted EBITDA of $51.3 million, up 61 per cent year-over-year. Total dollar value of transactions processed by merchants (‘total volume’) with Nuvei rose by 53 per cent to $13.9 billion. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)

The 2020 year featured revenue up 53 per cent to $375.0 million and adjusted EBITDA up 87 per cent to $163.0 million, with total volume rising a full 76 per cent year-over-year to $43.2 billion.

“Our performance continues to be driven by strong momentum in the high-growth verticals we serve, as well as by our customizable, scalable and feature-rich technology platform which provides one of the industry’s most complete payment technology solutions going well beyond merchant acquiring,” said Philip Fayer, chairman and CEO, in a press release.

The company said the fourth quarter represented the strongest growth yet experienced by Nuvei, driven by wallet share expansion from current merchants along with accelerated uptake of new merchants. New e-commerce business almost tripled compared to a year earlier, Nuvei said, while the company expanded its connectivity coverage over the quarter, introduced new product innovations on its platform and continued to execute on M&A.

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