Alleging Theft Irresponsibly Leads to $15,000 Aggravated Damages :

In Austin v. Kitsumkalum First Nation, 2020 BCSC 2298, Justice Groves had a situation of a 15 year School Principal in a First Nation school who gave notice of resignation 11 months in advance saying that she was leaving in November. The Employer turned around and terminated her in June, 5 months before her resignation date, and did not allege just cause at that time . The Plaintiff sued only for the 5 months. The Employer then alleged all sorts of criminal behaviour and alleged that it was after acquired cause.

The Judge found that the Defendant was fully aware of all of the necessary facts prior to termination and that those facts did not constitute just cause. In awarding aggravated damages , this is what the Judge said :

[33] In my view this defendant in raising in their statement of defence unfounded allegations which through a reasonable interpretation suggest potential criminal behaviour, suggest theft, suggest inappropriate reimbursement for expenditures, support a finding that this employer engaged in conduct that was unfair and in bad
faith. They are not saying she did not do her job. They are saying she was dishonest. They were saying she was fraudulent. They are saying she conducted herself in a semi criminal manner. All those things have not been proven, and in my view as they are unproven, they are both unfair and they were made in bad faith.

[35] And let us put this in context. She is a teacher in a small aboriginal community in Northern British Columbia near Terrace. She resides in that community. Upon her dismissal, everyone, she says, knew that she was dismissed. It was apparent. It is not like she is living in a big city and loses her job and no one knows.

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