Honda worker awarded damages for bad-faith conduct

Santos v. Honda of Canada Mfg. (2002, 22 C.C.E.L. (3d) 283 (Ont. S.C.J.)

Christine Santos was employed as an assembly line worker by Honda for more than three years. Her employment was terminated by Honda for cause for failing to follow proper assembly production procedures, which were designed to protect the public, and for lying about her failure to perform such tasks. Santos brought an action against Honda for damages for wrongful dismissal.

Santos was required to tighten the bolts on the vehicle doors and then to mark the doors to confirm the check had been completed as part of her job. Two employees of Honda claimed to have witnessed Santos marking the doors even though she had not tightened the bolts with her torque wrench as required.

When Santos was confronted with this allegation by her team leader, who was one of the individuals who claimed to have seen Santos failing to do the torque check, she denied not performing her job responsibilities as required.

A superior to the team leader concluded, after meeting with the team leader and another supervisor, that Santos was lying about doing her job properly.

The superior felt Santos’ actions had put the company at risk of being sued since the torque check procedure was a safety step and if it was not followed it could result in doors opening unexpectedly and people falling out of vehicles and being injured. Honda took the position that summary dismissal was justified because of Santos’ lack of honesty when questioned about doing the check.

The court accepted the evidence of Santos and concluded the other two witnesses were not telling the truth. The basis of the court’s conclusion was that when a check was done of the vehicles, only one loose bolt was found which could be traced back to Santos’ time on the line.

Given the evidence concerning the necessity of the torque check in order for the bolts to be tight, Santos’ evidence that she had completed the work was accepted. The court reasoned there could be no other explanation for there being no bolts which required tightening other than that Santos had been doing the torque check as she claimed. Since the court found there was no just cause for dismissal, a reasonable notice period of four months was awarded.

The notice period was extended by an additional two months in order to compensate Santos for the employer’s bad-faith conduct in the termination of her employment. In particular, Santos had been negatively affected by being identified as a liar who did not do her job properly.

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