An employer has been ordered to pay aggravated damages –
in addition to lost wages – after firing an employee in
retaliation for raising safety issues.
The employee worked at a hair salon. She suffered an injury at
work as a result of unsafe working conditions. The employer did not
take any steps to address the safety issues, nor did it report the
injury to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
After the employee filed a complaint with the Ministry of
Labour, the employer dismissed her. She then filed a
safety-reprisal complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
The employer did not attend the hearing at the OLRB.
The OLRB found that she was dismissed in retaliation for raising
safety concerns. It awarded her lost wages. Interestingly, the OLRB
also awarded her aggravated damages for mental distress, stating
that such damages are appropriate where the employer violates a
The OLRB stated:
"Here the evidence is clear that the circumstances of the
Complainant's dismissal were insensitive, demeaning and
humiliating. Mr. Vasiliades callously disregarded her workplace
injury, failing to report it to the Workplace Safety and Insurance
Board and pressured her to continue working despite her
protestations of the seriousness of her injury. The Complainant was
summarily dismissed while on sick leave solely for acting in
accordance with the statutory mandate when she reported the
hazardous working condition and her injury to the Ministry; she was
threatened with arrest were she to set foot on the premises of
Pro-Hairlines; she was denied her final paycheque; she was denied
the opportunity to collect EI by the Employer's bogus claim
that she was self-employed and its refusal, in total disregard of
federal legislation, to issue an ROE to which she was entitled. The
Complainant was no longer self-sufficient as a direct result of the
Employer's conduct and suffered loss of self-esteem as she was
forced to rely on her father for the basic necessities of food and
shelter. Such economic dependence was humiliating for the
Complainant. The psychological and mental distress she suffered was
compounded by the lingering physical effects of the serious
electrical shock she had sustained due to the hazardous conditions
at the workplace for which the Employer was responsible. The
Complainant's sense of loss of dignity and self-respect can be
laid directly at the feet of the Employer, acting through Mr.
Vasiliades who throughout the dismissal process acted in a manner
that was unfair and in bad faith, being both untruthful, misleading
and unduly insensitive."
The OLRB ordered the employer to pay the employee $16,659.00 as
damages for lost wages, and $7,500.00 as aggravated damages, for a
total of $24,159.00.
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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.
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