A wrongful dismissal lawsuit has revealed some problems with tile laying during renovation work to the W.C. Blair Pool in 2018.
Joe Coutlee sued his former employer, Apex Granite & Tile, in B.C. Suprme Court. He’s claiming he was wrongfully let go after working on a number of projects for Apex, including parts of the retiling of the Blair pool.
However, the judge ruled against Coutlee, finding he had not been fired but had quit.
Coutlee, then in his late 50s and a tile-setter of long experience, came to B.C. from Alberta in 2017 looking for work.
He found work with Apex, which was desperate for tile setters – as it was having difficulty finding enough qualified people for its work on community centres, swimming pools, and a Vancouver casino.
Coutlee, who asked for and was given the maximum $45 per hour wage for an Apex tile setter, worked on projects including the ParQ Casino and a pool in Richmond.
He was in conflict with several of his superiors during his 15 months with the company.
“The plaintiff generally believed that he knew the tiling trade better than his supervisors,” Justice Loryl Russell wrote in her judgment on the case.
“Unfortunately, this point of view resulted in situations where the plaintiff did not install tiles according to the chalk guidelines on the floor, or where he put the wrong slope on tiles down to a swimming pool drain,” requiring the work to be re-done by Coutlee or other employees.
By early 2018, Coutlee was working on the W.C. Blair Pool project – described as a major job for Apex.
“There would have been 25 to 40 employees on the job that ran seven days a week,” Russell wrote.
The job supervisor, Paul Hulme, testified that Coutlee “appeared resentful about being sent to the South Langley site because it required a long commute,” Russell added. “At that project, the plaintiff was late, talked back, showed an uncooperative attitude, would not listen to instructions, and acted as a know-it-all.”
While working on W.C. Blair, Hulme said that Coutlee refused to follow tiling lines marked on the site, and ended up with his tiles about a half-inch off the line.
“He [Hulme] referred to this as a ‘Dutchman’ – a colloquial term for a serious foul up as the tiles would not be even at the designated meeting point,” Russell wrote.
After Hulme pointed out the issue to Coutlee, Coutlee lost his temper and walked off the job, Hulme testified.
It is unclear from the judgment how much impact, if any, the tiling issue had on work at the W.C. Blair Pool.
Another supervisor, Jason Statham, wrote up a notice of non-compliance for Coutlee after he walked off the W.C. Blair job site without informing anyone on Feb. 8, 2018.
Coutlee would later walk off a different job site after arguing with his supervisor in August 2018. That time, he didn’t come back, and he would later claim he had been fired.
Russell found that Coutlee had not been fired, but had effectively quit, and was therefore not entitled to any compensation.
The pool in Murrayville was to have been shut down from Sept. 10 to mid-January 2018, to allow for pool deck and change room upgrades, as well as replacing the tiles that dated back to the pool’s 1986 opening.
But by early early January, the Township announced that renovations to the pool deck and change rooms had been delayed, pushing back the opening from January to mid-March.
Tiling does not seem to have been a major part of the issues.
According to a memo to council, “significant issues were encountered” when demolition crews took down the walls and concrete slabs in the facility.
“Thicker than anticipated concrete slabs, failing and deteriorating pool and sanitary piping, and failing pool features affected the demolition schedule, where additional work needed to be added to the original scope of work,” the memo said.
The facility opened again in late March of 2018, about two months behind schedule.