The Plaintiff was employed by the defendant for 15
years. She earned $12.95 per hour. She was dismissed at
the age of 56 after she became totally deaf, possibly due to a
virus. The conduct of her employer is summarized by Epstein,
J.A. at the outset and is startling, to say the least:
"In October 2010, Ms. Strudwick suddenly became completely
deaf. While the cause is uncertain, her doctors believe it was a
virus. At that time, Raymond Berta, the owner and manager of
Applied Consumer, was away from his business dealing with a medical
problem. The general manager of Applied Consumer, Andrew Hoffman,
had taken over the operations of the company in Mr. Berta's
absence. Almost immediately after Ms. Strudwick became deaf, Mr.
Hoffman, together with Ms. Strudwick's immediate supervisor,
Liz Camilleri, commenced a campaign of abuse against Ms. Strudwick
designed to force her resignation. This abuse will be described in
more detail later in these reasons. In summary, in addition to
publically belittling, harassing and isolating Ms. Strudwick in
ways relating to her disability, Applied Consumer not only denied
Ms. Strudwick any accommodation of her disability but also took
specific steps to increase the difficulties she faced as a result
of her not being able to hear. The culmination of this abuse came
on May 27, 2011 when Mr. Hoffman fired Ms. Strudwick for a
"stunt [she] had [allegedly] pulled" at a company
The Court of Appeal awarded the plaintiff a total of $246,049,
more than double the amount awarded at trial, an unusual occurrence
given the deference ordinarily accorded to the trial judge in
assessing damages. The damages were awarded under various
heads including wrongful dismissal (20 months), cost of
replacing benefits during the notice period, Ontario Human Rights
Code violations ($40,000), intentional infliction of mental
distress ($35,294), aggravated damages ($70,000) and punitive
damages ($55,000). The court affirmed the cost award of the
trial judge ($40,000) and awarded costs of the appeal of
$20,000. In short, the court takes a dim view of abusive
employers, especially when the abuse is related to an
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.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
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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