The ‘Keays’ to punitive damages (Legal view)

Appeal finds no deliberate misconduct on Honda's part
By Natalie C. MacDonald
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/16/2006

Punitive damages are a rarity in employment law. Only the most extreme misbehaviour by employers will warrant them. When an Ontario court awarded a former Honda worker $500,000 in punitive damages after he was fired, it raised a lot of eyebrows — not for the fact damages were awarded, but because the amount was so high. So it wasn’t surprising when the Ontario Court of Appeal recently reduced that amount to $100,000.

Notwithstanding the significant reduction, the importance of this decision in the employment law realm can’t be overstated. While the amount awarded was slashed significantly, $100,000 isn’t small potatoes.

The Court of Appeal’s reasoning should put to rest any fear that every wrongful dismissal case will attract punitive damages. After all, the ruling confirms punitive damages will still likely be reserved for exceptional cases, such as an employer’s unwillingness to adhere to its duties in the workplace like the duty to accommodate.