Employee Gets One Month Covid Bump Plus $30K in Punitive Damages:

In Chalmers v Airways Transit Service and Bladder Capital Group, 2023 ONSC 57825 Justice MacNeil first awarded 24 months notice to a 53 year old VP with 28 years service and then  added a one month COVID bump because he was terminated in June 2020 at a time when the airline industry was in the dumps.

The Defendant tried to rely on the old IDEL defence, which had been knocked down already in a string of Ontario cases. It was defeated again.

The Defendant also tried to get the CEWS deduction, another defence that had been previously knocked down . Again they failed.

Some people never give up.

Then the Defendant got whacked for $30,000 in punitive damages. This is what the Judge said on that issue :

159]           In my view, by the manner in which it treated Mr. Chalmers, Airways Transit engaged in sufficiently harsh and outrageous conduct that it merits a punitive damages award, including the following grounds:

(a)     When initially laid off, Mr. Chalmers was asked to work without pay.

(b)     In or about June 2020, Airways Transit had recalled several senior managers but not Mr. Chalmers.

(c)     Airways Transit contacted Mr. Chalmers in the months subsequent to his layoff to ask questions regarding operations, procedures, contacts and staffing matters. He was also asked to provide passwords. I find that this conduct was an obvious attempt by Airways Transit to phase Mr. Chalmers out of his role as Vice-President.

(d)     Mr. Chalmers followed up with Airways Transit multiple times about returning to work and Airways Transit failed to respond to his inquiries.

(e)     Airways Transit refused to pay Mr. Chalmers his outstanding vacation pay in contravention of the ESA.

(f)      Airways Transit failed to make contribution to Mr. Chalmers’ RRSP plan.

(g)     As of the motion hearing date, Airways Transit had not paid Mr. Chalmers his statutory entitlements pursuant to the ESA.

(h)     Despite attempts by Mr. Chalmers to return Airways Transit’s property, Airways Transit pled that he had failed to return said property and threatened “recovery” of damages for same.

(i)      Airways Transit’s conduct, including its silence and failure to provide relevant information in a timely manner, severely harmed Mr. Chalmers’ ability to make informed decisions concerning his employment and career.

(j)      By its actions, Airways Transit also failed to assist Mr. Chalmers with a new job search or to give him a letter of reference.

[160]           Employees depend on employment not only for their financial survival but also for a sense of self-worth. Conduct of the employer that negatively impacts on those two essential elements warrants condemnation and punishment.

My Comments :

The ability of Courts to punish employers who act unfairly when terminating employees has had many names over my career ( Mental Distress, Honda Damages , Moral Damages, Aggravated Damages, Punitive Damages) but they all have the same theme.

If you treat people like dirt when terminating them, we will punish you.

If you would like a copy of this case, email me at barry@barryfisher.ca

For mediation dates, go to www.barryfisher.ca