Damages slashed for manager’s assault (Legal view)

Ontario Court of Appeal reduces $500,000 damage award but employer still liable for manager’s altercation with employee
By Daniel Lublin
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/09/2010

In response to a workplace complaint, many employers blithely investigate, assuming their legal obligations will be met. However, the Ontario Court of Appeal has just confirmed a poorly run investigation can render an employer vulnerable for considerable damages.

Marta Piresferreira worked at Bell for 10 years. She was supervised by Richard Ayotte, who was seen as critical, intimidating and aggressive. Ayotte would often yell and even swear at his staff and his management style had been discussed at his performance reviews. Ayotte was particularly tough on Piresferreira, thinking it would achieve results.

In May 2005, the situation between Piresferreira and Ayotte erupted. When Piresferreira allegedly failed to book a meeting, Ayotte responded by yelling and swearing at her, refusing to entertain evidence of her efforts and eventually pushing her backwards with enough force she had to catch herself on a filing cabinet. Stunned, Piresferreira followed Ayotte into his office, insisting what he had done was wrong. Ayotte barked at her to “get the hell out” and threatened her with probation.