Federal Court


Employment

WRONGFUL DISMISSAL
Punitive damages of $100,000 reasonable in face of bad faith conduct

This was application for judicial review of adjudicator’s decision. Prior to dismissal, respondent served applicant for more than 30 years. At time of termination he was director of applicant’s health department. Respondent and two others sent letter to applicant’s executive director, criticizing his management style. Executive director then began to target respondent with unsupported accusations of fraud and mismanagement. Respondent’s health deteriorated and he was compelled to take medical leave. Executive director continued his vicious campaign of intimidation. Chief of applicant terminated executive director and executive director then mounted political campaign against chief. Executive director made fabricated and malicious accusations regarding respondent in memorandum to applicant’s council. Accusations were widely distributed within community and region. They destroyed respondent’s reputation and professional standing. Applicant terminated respondent without notice or compensation. Adjudicator determined that respondent had been unjustly dismissed. Respondent was awarded compensation for employment-related losses. Respondent was awarded aggravated damages of $85,000 and punitive damages of $100,000. Applicant challenged aggravated and punitive damages awarded to respondent. Application dismissed. Standard of review was reasonableness. Adjudicator properly understood principles relating to aggravated damages. Case law supported adjudicator’s decision to award aggravated damages to compensate respondent for consequential damage to his prospect of future employment, to his mental and physical health and well-being, to his integrity and dignity and to his professional and personal reputation. Quantum awarded was reasonable given extreme, heavy handed conduct that had severe impact on respondent. Aggravated damages award was reasonable. Adjudicator’s factual findings and overview of relevant case law on punitive damages provided firm basis for decision to award punitive damages of $100,000. Given numerous factual findings made regarding reprehensible and bad faith conduct of applicant, $100,000 award of punitive damages was reasonable. Quantum was entirely justifiable and was within range of acceptable outcomes.

Joseph v. Tl’azt’en First Nation (Jul. 9, 2013, F.C., Danièle Tremblay-Lamer J., File No. T-1227-12) 230 A.C.W.S. (3d) 142.

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