Did you know that judges will sometimes award punitive damages to an employee when an employer engages in malicious conduct? This blog summarises one such case.
Morison v Ergo-Industrial Seating Systems Inc.
Mr. Morison was the company’s regional manager and a top salesperson who was unaware of any issues relating to his performance until, during his sixth year of employment, the company’s owner called him to inform him that his employment was terminated. The company offered Mr. Morison five months’ termination pay, which he rejected. Thereafter, the company insisted it had just cause to terminate his employment. The judge noted that the defendant adopted a rather aggressive position while providing no convincing evidence at trial that could support its allegedly reasonable belief it had just cause.
Mr. Morison claimed punitive damages based on the following facts: the allegations of cause initially pleaded and the lack of a reasonable belief to support the allegations of cause; the two months’ delay by the defendant in providing the plaintiff with his record of employment; the failing of the defendant to pay any amount owing under the Employment Standards Act until three years after the termination; the financial impact these delays had on him; the employer’s knowledge of his financial circumstances; and that the allegations of cause were made for tactical reasons.
The judge found that the defendant’s behaviour was “malicious, oppressive and high-handed” and “a marked departure from ordinary standards of decent behaviour.” The judge found that an award of punitive damages was rationally required to punish the defendant: “Employers cannot be allowed to behave in such a fashion without a clear message being sent by this court that this is not acceptable.” The judge awarded $50,000 in punitive damages.
If an employer engages in malicious conduct during the termination of an employee, this conduct may be sanctioned by a court.
If your employer engages in similar behaviour to the behaviour described in this blog, you should consult an employment lawyer to find out about your rights.
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