Another BC employer has been hit with punitive damages.
There have been cases where flawed investigations have led to
punitive damages (see the
Vernon case in BC, and Home Hardware in Alberta), and there have been
jury awards for bad employer conduct (see
Babine Forest Products in BC, and
Wal-Mart in Ontario). Now another BC Supreme
Court case - Kelly v. Norsemont Mining Inc.
- has awarded punitive damages for the conduct of
Kelly sued and complained he was dismissed for
insisting the company adhere to securities
regulations. The employer vigorously
defended. Not only did it say there was just cause for
termination due to incompetence, the employer also alleged civil
fraud by Kelly. Both those claims were found to be without
merit. The employer also:
withheld Kelly's last month's pay for the seven years
physically wrestled with Kelly over his personal laptop;
refused to return other personal items while requiring the
return of a company issued Starbucks card;
threatened to bankrupt Kelly; and
threatened action to impede Kelly in earning other income
The court found the employer's conduct to be
"vindictive, reprehensible and malicious" and
that punitive damages were necessary to deter such
The Court looked at other punitive damages awards ranging from
$20,000 to $75,000 before deciding to award $100,000.
The bad news is that large awards of punitive damages are
becoming more common. The good news is that the conduct that
attracts punitive damages is easily avoided by a reasonable
approach to terminating employees and to defending claims that
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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