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July 11, 2016

Court of Appeal clarifies law on wrongful dismissal and discrimination


By Mika Imai

The Ontario Court of Appeal has sent a signal to employers – it is prepared to uphold sizeable damage awards for employees whose employment rights have been violated.

In Strudwick v Applied Consumer & Clinical Evaluations Inc, a 15-year employee was awarded $246,049.92, plus $20,000 in legal costs based on wrongful dismissal, harassment and discrimination.

Vicky Strudwick, an employee of more than 15 years, was an instructor at the polling and research corporation, Applied Consumer & Clinical Evaluations Inc. (“Applied Consumer”). After Ms. Strudwick suddenly became deaf, the general manager of Applied Consumer and her immediate supervisor “commenced a campaign of abuse . . . designed to force her resignation.” The Court explained:

. . . in addition to publically belittling, harassing and isolating Ms. Strudwick in ways relating to her disability, Applied Consumer not only denied Ms. Strudwick any accommodation of her disability but also took specific steps to increase the difficulties she faced as a result of her not being able to hear.

By way of example, Ms. Strudwick’s supervisor “would purposely give Ms. Strudwick instructions in a manner that prevented her from lip reading. Then . . . call Ms. Strudwick ‘stupid’ for not understanding the instructions.”

Ms. Strudwick was also denied workplace adjustments for her disability that had no cost or for which she offered to pay (e.g. turning her desk so she could see people approaching). Applied Consumer eventually terminated Ms. Strudwick, publically, and refused termination pay when she declined to sign a release.

A number of lessons can be learned from this decision.

For Employers:

For Employees:

Millard & Company specializes in employment law, representing both employers and employees. Contact us at the number above if you would like to discuss your legal options.

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