When a dismissed employee sues their former employer the potential cost to the employer can often be estimated early on in the process. This can help both the employee and the employer reach a satisfactory settlement. In certain cases however the unexpected happens and an employee’s claim becomes far greater than originally anticipated. The recent employment law case of Brito v. Canac Kitchens demonstrates how an employee’s damages can expand in a wrongful dismissal claim.
In the majority of cases an employee who is wrongfully dismissed by their employer is entitled to reasonable notice damages. These damages represent the amount of notice that the employer should have given to the employee that they were going to lose their job. In most wrongful dismissal cases the majority of the damages awarded are reasonable notice damages in the form of a continuing salary during the notice period. The notice period may last anywhere from a few weeks to 24 months. During the notice period employers are responsible not only for an employee’s salary but also for the other benefits an employee received, including long-term disability benefits if applicable.
In the Canac Kitchens case, about 16 months after being laid off, the plaintiff, a dismissed employee of Canac Kitchens, underwent surgery for laryngeal cancer and would have became eligible for the long-term disability benefits formerly provided by his employer. At trial, the judge found that the plaintiff had become disabled during the reasonable notice period that his employer ought to have, but did not, provide. Because the employer had chosen not to continue the plaintiff’s long-term disability benefits during the notice period the employer was held liable to compensate the employee for his lost benefits. This finding by the judge more than doubled the damages award provided to the employee. In addition, the judge described Canac’s conduct as “reckless, outrageous, and high-handed” and an additional award of $15,000 was provided to the plaintiff as ancillary damages.
The Canac Kitchens case is an excellent example of how what may seem to be a simple dismissal case can become very costly to an employer when an employee becomes disabled during the notice period. To read the entirety of the decision click here.
Based in Kanata, the law firm of Connolly Nichols Allan & Snelling provides corporate & commercial, real estate, family, and civil litigation services throughout Ottawa and the surrounding area.