Retail chain Walmart must pay a former employee more than $1.2 million to compensate for a months-long campaign of verbal abuse by her manager – and the manager must pay a quarter of a million himself, an Ontario jury has ruled.
Meredith Boucher, 42, worked at a Windsor, Ont., Walmart store in 2009. She claimed that from May to November that year, the store manager, Jason Pinnock, 32, subjected her to repeated verbal abuse and humiliation. In her wrongful dismissal suit, Boucher stated that the abuse she suffered included being called an idiot and having to count skids in front of other Walmart employees to show she could count. She also said an assistant manager punched her in the arm twice. The assistant manager was later dismissed.
Boucher asked for $200,000 for intentional infliction of mental suffering and $1 million in punitive damages. The case was heard by a jury, who found Boucher was constructively dismissed and awarded her the $1.2 million from Walmart for which she asked, plus another $10,000 for the assault. However, the jury also ordered Pinnock to personally pay Boucher $100,000 for intentional infliction of mental suffering and $150,000 in punitive damages, bringing the total award to $1.46 million.
This is the second wrongful dismissal case in recent months where a jury has awarded a large amount of punitive damages to a fired employee. In June, a British Columbia lumber company was ordered to pay a dismissed employee more than $800,000, including $573,000 in punitive damages.
Boucher expressed relief and told reporters she felt “invigorated” following the decision, but Walmart lawyer Stephen Jovanonic was doubtful about the verdict.
“I don’t think it will set a precedent, because I expect it to get set aside on appeal,” Jovanonic told the Windsor Star.
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