British manager's lawsuit against Vietnam movie theater dismissed

By Hai Duyen   September 30, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
A HCMC court has dismissed a British manager's wrongful termination lawsuit against movie theater chain CGV Vietnam and the plaintiff will thus receive no compensation.

The People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City decided on Friday to reject the lawsuit filed by Benedict Daniel Sullivan, 60, against CJ CGV Vietnam Co. Ltd, the largest cinema complex in the country.

Sullivan began working for CJ CGV Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012 and signed a contract to be the director of business and marketing from Jan. 1, 2014, to April 30, 2015, with a monthly salary of US$4,000 plus bonus and commission.

He was able to bring the company valuable business deals, but on Oct. 7, 2014, CGV CEO Dongwon Kwak unexpectedly transferred him to a CGV theater in District 7 as a floor manager, ending the contract prematurely.

Sullivan claimed that the transfer happened so that the company did not have to pay him commission for business deals he secured.

The transfer put him into a mental crisis and he was advised by his doctor to regularly take days off.

On Dec. 17, 2014, Sullivan submitted a letter of resignation from his position as the director of business and marketing effective January 19, 2015.

However, CGV terminated its business contract with him the next day (January 20, 2015).

Benedict Daniel Sullivan at HCMC Peoples Court for the hearing of his wrongful termination lawsuit against movie theater chain CGV, September 29, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen

Benedict Daniel Sullivan at HCMC People's Court for the hearing of his wrongful termination lawsuit against movie theater chain CGV, September 29, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen

Sullivan said that he only resigned from the director post but that did not mean he was no longer with the company. He only gave up his position as a director, and his business contract with the company was supposed to remain intact.

Therefore, he sued CGV, claiming that they had dismissed him without reasonable cause.

He asked the company to pay him more than VND6 billion ($255,000) in compensation, including salary and subsidies for the remaining months of his contract, a business-class air ticket to the U.K., commission for the business deals he secured, and compensation for the damage caused by terminating the contract early.

At the trial, the jury determined that the two parties had signed a labor contract with a term from January 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015.

Due to a change in demand, CGV transferred Sullivan from sales director to floor manager and continued paying him a salary as stated in the contract. This was not against to the law, heard the court, because according to the Labor Code, "when facing difficulties or according to production and business needs, employers can transfer employees to new positions for a period not under 60 days."

After receiving the transfer notice, Sullivan proactively complied, but then on December 17, 2014, he voluntarily submitted a resignation letter without any coercion from CGV.

Therefore, the court ruled that there was no basis to determine that CGV had unilaterally terminated the contract illegally.

Regarding the British man’s request for CGV to pay him salary, subsidies and commissions for the remaining months in the contract, the court said the movie theater chain has provided evidence to prove that it had paid him enough, with a total payment of more than VND3.1 billion.

Meanwhile, Sullivan could not submit proof to back up his claim that CGV owed him VND6 billion.

Sullivan said he will appeal the ruling, which was the first since the court accepted the case eight years ago.

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