CHRISTMAS TERMINATION COSTS EMPLOYER $30,000
Employee complained of workplace harassment to the owner, who promised her the company would resolve it after the Christmas holidays.
On boxing day, the employee found a termination letter stuck in her back door.
An Ontario court awarded the employee $30,000 because of the employer’s “cowardly” termination.
In Horner v. 897469 Ontario inc., 2018 ONSC 121, an Ontario court awarded an employee $30,000 because of the bad faith way in which her employer fired her.
In December 2016, the employee reported to her supervisor that she was being harassed by another coworker. Because the supervisor was not taking it seriously, she also reported it to the owner.
On December 22, the owner told the employee that she should take the next day off, and that the company would “figure this out in the new year.”
On December 28, the employee discovered a termination letter stuck in her backdoor. The letter stated that she was being unprofessional at work, and the employer could no longer condone this conduct. Her depression worsened.
The employee sued the employer for aggravated and punitive damages, among others.
The court awarded $10,000 in punitive damages because the employee was harassed and rather than investigating, the employer fired her. This was “malicious, oppressive and high-handed” conduct.
The court also awarded $20,000 in aggravated damages because the employer fired the employee for sticking the termination letter in the back door during Christmas. This was also after promising the employee they would “figure” the harassment out. This conduct was “beyond cold and brusque; it was cowardly.”
Employer errors: the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires that employers must adequately investigate complaints of harassment. Employers are also not allowed to retaliate against employees for reporting harassment. While there isn’t anything stopping an employer from dismissing an employee over Christmas, terminations should always be handled in a forthright way.
Employee education: the employee could have asked the Ontario labour relations board for her job back if the employer fired her because she complained about harassment. In any case, employees need to know that they have a right to be treated in good faith when they are being let go.