Scarboro Super Sues for $860K: Says Club Let Him Go After Parental Leave

There’s a fascinating article in Monday’s Toronto Sun about Keith Rasmus, the superintendent at Scarboro Golf and Country Club, one of Toronto’s oldest clubs. Rasmus took parental leave just as the club began an extensive renovation plan, and upon returning this month, was told the club would not be picking up his contract when it expires next year.

The story, written in traditional sensational Sun fashion, makes the case out ot be a battle between Scarboro’s so-called Old Boys and Rasmus, a forward-thinking super who took what was owed to him:

For generations at the manicured, verdant expanse of the Scarboro Golf and Country Club, well-heeled men have teed off, sipped their scotches and smoked their cigars.

What none of these gentlemen have done, it is probably safe to assume, is take paternity leave.

And so it seems to have come as a shock to the venerable old boys’ club when 42-year-old Keith Rasmus informed the management that he would be taking 9 months off from his job as golf course superintendent to spend time with his new baby son.

In fact, it seems to have offended their sensibilities so much that despite toiling at the club for some 25 years, Rasmus was handed his walking papers just the day before he headed off on his paternity leave.

“I think I’m being punished because I had the nerve to put my family before my job,” says the father of three from his Bradford home where he’s been caring for his youngest, 14-month-old Dylan.

“I shouldn’t be punished for taking a leave that’s completely legal.”

He’s right — he shouldn’t be punished for taking parental leave. It is every parent’s right. I took it when I was at the Post, for instance. But truth be told, I think there’s more to this story than a simply battle over parental leave.

Joe Murphy, Scarboro’s smooth talking GM, says as much in the story:

The club insists their decision not to renew his contract is not due to his taking time off to care for his son. “It absolutely had nothing to do with it,” says general manager Joe Murphy. “Keith has every right to take that leave.”

Yet he’ll now be out of a job once his contract ends next fall.

The story does mention the club wasn’t thrilled with Rasmus’ departure, which came at “the busiest time”:

He knew being away over the club’s busiest time would not be convenient but that’s why he gave plenty of notice, he says, and worked hard to have everything in place to run smoothly while he was gone.

“I told them I’m only a phone call away. I wasn’t abandoning them.”

However, he did leave just as the club was beginning a substantial restoration of its AW Tillinghast design, led by architects Ian Andrew and Gil Hanse. What the article doesn’t mention is that Rasmus actively battled with the club over the restoration and who should be hired. Club sources say his stance won him no friends, with several feeling he went beyond the scope of his role as superintendent. The truth is that Rasmus’ club was always in immaculate condition, but that came at a cost. Much of the course’s architecture had been simplified to make it easier to maintain. Greens shrunk over time, though the putting surfaces were always in terrific shape. It is my impression that the writer of the article has very little understanding of the nuances of the inner-workings of a private golf club, just as a superintendent would have little sense of the inner-workings of a newsroom.

In the end, we don’t have the club’s side of the story — as to why it decided to let Rasmus go. If it comes to trial, we’ll surely hear Scarboro’s side of this.

Anyway, apparently Scaboro told Rasmus his contract wouldn’t be picked up before he went on parental leave. As opposed to simply taking it quietly, parting ways with the club and finding a new club to work with — which is not always an easy thing to do — Rasmus decided to sue:

But the day before his leave was to begin, he was informed that his 2005 contract would not be renewed once it expires on Sept. 30, 2008.

Rasmus believes their decision was in retaliation for his daring to take parental leave and has launched a civil suit against the club seeking $825,000 in damages and a human rights complaint. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The article concludes with the shocking comment that Rasmus may be suing the club, but he also intends to work out the remainder of his contact. Now talk about uncomfortable.

The one thing I don’t understand is how someone can sue an employer for not extending their contract. Isn’t that why there’s a contract — to give the employer the prerogative to make a change if they want to? Why should they have to extend Rasmus’ deal?

The entire story is here. I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of this one.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

19 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Even with an employment contract an employee can still seek to enforce employment standards rights such as parental leave rights and related job protections.

    Had he not gone on leave, after being advised of termination, then he would have spent two uncomfortable years. In my experience, private clubs usually wait until the end of the contract to avoid this discomfort. No doubt the plantiff’s lawyer will point this out.

    Should be fun to watch.

  • This will give him more time to spend with family.

    “Putting family first” used to mean working a job to feed, house and clothe them.

  • “Putting family first” used to mean working a job to feed, house and clothe them.

    How the roles of Mothers have changed…

  • Greens superintendents need to work summers, every summer. It’s that simple. He timed his leave perfectly to get himself a full year off from the hectic summer golf workload. Nice way to treat his long time employer. Loyalty, after all, is a two way street.

    Perhaps he should find another line of work so that he can spend more summers with his growing family?

    • Are u serious? Golfcourse superintendents work an average of 2600 hours and 320 days a year. Maybe you should look into what the job intails beofre commmenting on someone needing to find a new job. Its considered one of the highest stress jobs in a ny industry. He did do nothing wrong and is entitled to his leave for his child. Now go back to your 8 hour a day job 1980 hours a year and 245 days of work. Then keep complaining about playing conditions on the dirt track course that you play.

  • rpf – I treasure my time with my family, and strike a balance with my career so that I am happy with both. I wish it could be all family, but that won’t pay the bills. Now he is heading for unemployment, and a likely pay cut and possibly having to uproot his family. That is putting himself first, his family second, and his employer third.

  • Taking parental leave that’s legal, however there are some positions that well u just can not afford not to be there. A Golf Course Super of 25 years should know that, it’s the nature of the business.

  • I think you guys are on the wrong track with thinking a superintendent only works in the summer months and should be there to earn his keep. What do you think we do all winter? I don’t see what the problem is with him taking the time off when he did, who cares its his right. From what I am reading he did give the club notice and it wasnt a last minute surprise.
    I am sure at a club like Scarboro, Rasmus has at least 1 assistant and 2 second assistants not to mention the amount of people on staff that have years of experience and don’t need to be constantly directed on what to do. Why have an assistant(s) if you don’t trust them to run the show when needed. Especially when he told the club that he was just a call away. I am not saying the timing was perfect but I am sure that he has been doing a fine job if he has been employed there for that long.

    How ridiculous the attitudes on this board. There is life outside of work even for a superintendent. What a joke!

  • I took parental leave, so don’t think there should be any issue about someone taking time away (it is their right, after all). However, I think there’s much more to this story than a parental leave, which I think had little to do with the decision to let Rasmus go.

  • I agree that there is more to the story, that said most of the discussion here has revolved around the fact that he has taken parental leave. What if Rasmus was a female superintendent would that change peoples views?

  • Bottom line. He has a right to his leave as permitted by legislation as the GM strongly acknowledged in the article. The employer has a right to renew or non renew his contract, pursuant to the terms of that agreement. Seems each party has chosen to exercise their rights.

    His attempt at humiliating the club publicly may be the cause for any discomfort he may feel in going back to work. It also could impede future employment efforts. If that proves to be the case, he is entirely the author of his own misfortune.

  • Apparently the full field blitz by Rasmus continues — he appeared on several Toronto area radio stations last week to plead his case.

  • Shark – and if he is in fact the author of his own misfortune, it is pathetic to guise it as “putting family first”.

  • It sounds like the parental leave may be the straw that broke the camels back in this story. The super had a long battle with the club regarding the reno’s and maintenance and it sounds as if he went beyond what could be considered “just doing his job”.

    As we have seen the negative attitudes regarding parental leave and loyalty to your employer are still entrenched in our society and I’m sure those attitudes exist in at least some members of the board and may have contributed to the clubs decision.

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