Falsely accused employee gets $2.1 million (Legal view)

The Beer Store pressed charges using videotape of worker taking money, while suppressing video of him putting it back in the till
By Peter Straszynski
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/09/2008

A Niagara Falls, Ont. outlet of The Beer Store that fired a worker for allegedly stealing less than $200 must now pay him more than $2 million in damages.

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently upheld a jury award of $2.1 million to Douglas McNeil, who had sued his former employer, The Beer Store, for malicious prosecution. The case illustrates the courts’ increasing comfort with large damage awards against employers who treat employees with disregard for their rights. It also serves as a potent reminder that employers must proceed with caution when accusing employees of serious wrongdoing.

McNeil was employed by The Beer Store in Niagara Falls. As part of an investigation into property loss 13 years ago, the store set up hidden cameras. The cameras caught McNeil removing $140 US on one occasion and $22 Cdn on another from the store’s cash register, either pocketing the cash or giving it to another employee. Other portions of video footage, however, showed McNeil placing corresponding amounts of cash into the till, consistent with his explanation and seeming to exonerate him.