Jun 26

Walmart Punitive Damages

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Walmart gets a million dollar ‘rollback’ but still pays out $410,000 in damages for terminated employee

Unprecedented Damages in Employment Matters

The employment law sphere has seen a range of cases wherein the court has been noted for awarding damages which are “unprecedented”, notably in the cases of Fair v. Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board [2013] O.H.R.T.D. No. 420 (extensive damages for lost wages and general damages for a combined sum of $449,283.89 and The City of Calgary v Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 38 [2013] A.G.A.A. No. 47 (damages for lost income, general and special damages amounting to $869,022).

Prior to these cases, there seemed to be an unwritten rule that general and punitive damages did not exceed $300,000-$350,000. However, as the courts have acknowledged, different factors surrounding a wrongful dismissal will increase this amount- including the Defendant’s capital (a factor in determining what will ‘deter’ the Defendant from future conduct), the Plaintiff’s tenure and the severity of the Human Rights issues involved.

Current Case Law

Recently, in the case of Boucher v. Wal-Mart Canada Corp. [2014] O.J. No. 2452, the court continued to disprove the “glass ceiling” myth that surrounded punitive and non-pecuniary damages, awarding $410,000 to the Plaintiff, Boucher, an Assistant Manager of 10 years seniority who had been belittled and humiliated by her boss. When the Plaintiff went to Wal-Mart directly regarding these issues, the result was not favourable. Nothing was effectively done about the harassment, and so the Plaintiff sued Wal-Mart upon her resignation.

The Plaintiff, at the lower court, had initially been awarded 1.45 million, but the Ontario Court of Appeal lowered the amount to $410,000 on the basis that it was more in line with recent jurisprudence.

$410,000 is, to this day, considered a significant amount of damages in court. Judges are supposed to analyze all aspects of the case and determine, on a proportionality basis, what the appropriate amount of damages is, and what effect this will have on the Defendant.

The main factor which results in a higher amount of non-pecuniary damages is the extent of the effect of the employer’s actions on the Plaintiff. In fact, this is one of the factor’s which resulted in a reduction of damages in Boucher, as the bench noted that the Plaintiff’s mental distress was alleviated once her harasser was no longer working with her.

Advice for Employers
Maintaining a workplace which is compliant with Employment and Human Rights Legislation and enforcing a Harassment and Work Violence Policy is essential to avoiding these types of claims against your company. If you are questioning whether or not your workplace is compliant or are wondering how to deal with an employee complaint regarding harassment or illness, it is best to contact an Employment Lawyer. As the courts have found, significant damages are warranted against an employer who fails to protect or takes an advantage of their employees.

Advice for Employees
If you have been harassed or have suffered as a result of your workplace or the actions of your employer, you may be entitled to significant damages at law. Contact Monkhouse Law today for a free consultation and see how recent cases can assist you in resolving your employment matter.