Extra-ordinary Damage Awards

Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
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Damage claims for the unfair conduct of the employer are difficult, yet important, to understand. The basic rule is that where the employer acts unfairly at the time of termination, an additional sum may be awarded to compensate the employee for emotional distress. These awards are known as “moral damages”. They tend to be in the broad range of $10,000 to $50,000. This being said, in one case, the sum of $250,000 was awarded.[1]

This damage award is in addition to the “reasonable notice award”.

Modern Case Law

A recent case also determined that the moral damage award is also in addition to a claim for human rights damages.[2] In this case, the plaintiff had been subjected to repeated verbal sexually harassing remarks. Her complaints about such conduct were not properly investigated.

She also had raised a series of complaints about safety concerns, at a time, when unknown to her, the company had decided to terminate her employment.

The trial judge, as was confirmed by the Court of Appeal awarded her $60,000 for moral damages due to the unfair manner of dismissal as it was retaliatory to her complaint of harassment.

She was also awarded $25,000 for human rights violations[3] in addition to 10 months’ severance.

Double Recovery?

The employer, on appeal, argued that it was being punished twice for the same wrongdoing. The Court of Appeal disagreed, noting that the two awards of moral damages and human rights awards are distinct and serve different purposes. The trial decision was upheld.

Punitive Awards

In very exceptional case, there may be recovery for punitive damages where the employer conduct is deliberate and malicious. These cases are unusual. One recent case, however, awarded $500,000 for punitive damages.[4]

Understand Your Rights

Employees facing apparent wrongdoing at the workplace need to be aware of the remedies available, particularly where one such remedy is based on a human rights violation. Both such awards are also non-taxable and are not the subject of employment insurance repayment obligations. These claims can often also help in the negotiation process to resolve the case.

Care must be taken to “plead” or frame the case in legal terms to accomplish these results. When facing adverse treatment by your employer, legal advice must guide your strategy to allow for the best possible result, whether in court or by a mutual settlement.

Let Advice Guide Your Actions

Contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We can guide you through the issues, help you understand your rights, and defend your position. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation



[1] Galea v Wal-Mart

[2] Doyle v Zochem

[3] Ontario law allows a civil action for a human rights violation where there is a companion action, as in this case.

[4] Galea, as above