Human rights damages in wrongful dismissal lawsuits

Ontario courts are increasingly using previously little-used powers to award human rights damages
By Niklay Chsherbinin
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 03/04/2015

Employment disputes are frequently resolved through litigation, where litigants seek a slew of damages ranging from statutory to common law to human rights. Until recently, an award of human rights damages in the context of a wrongful dismissal action has been perceived to be a futile exercise, making lawyers and their clients wondering whether civil courts would order damages for a breach of the Human Rights Code. The breakthrough came in 2013 when, in Wilson v. Solis Mexican Foods Inc., the Ontario Superior Court of Justice exercised its long-dormant remedial powers by awarding a discriminated employee $20,000 in human rights damages. In 2015, in Partridge v. Botony Dental Corporation, the same court, under the pen of Justice Susan E. Healey, awarded the same amount of human rights damages. This was followed by the Small Claims Court’s decision in Bray v. Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy, thereby signaling a decisive shift in favour of protecting discriminated employees in civil courts.

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