Home Featured Fired body shop technician with autistic son awarded $10K in moral damages

Fired body shop technician with autistic son awarded $10K in moral damages

by HR Law Canada

A former body shop technician at Carstar Downsview has been awarded more than $23,000 in a wrongful dismissal case by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s Small Claims Court. That included $10,000 in moral damages tacked on, in part, for the owner’s comments about him needing to find another job quickly to take after his son — who has autism.

The court found the worker, J.L., was terminated from his position, contrary to the company’s assertion that he resigned, and awarded him unpaid wages, wrongful dismissal damages, and moral damages for bad faith conduct by the employer.

Resignation versus termination

The case centered on whether J.L. had resigned or was terminated from his employment on Jan. 2, 2020. The court found that J.L. had been terminated and was entitled to compensation, noting the significant emotional impact the dismissal had on him, particularly given his family’s financial dependence on his income and his son’s special needs.

The court also found that Carstar Downsview failed to pay J.L. his due wages, holiday pay, and vacation pay in accordance with Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA). J.L. testified that he worked every day between Dec. 23, 2019, and Jan. 2, 2020, except for statutory holidays and half-days when the shop was closed.

Despite this, he was only paid up to Dec. 22, 2019. His testimony on this point was uncontradicted by the employer.

J.L. testified that on Jan. 2, 2020, he was called into the office by the owner, who informed him he was being let go for performance reasons and that he should “look for another job as his son needs it,” the ruing stated.

J.L. was shocked and confused by this, given his strong performance record and the lack of prior warnings.

14 weeks’ notice, inducement a factor

The court determined that J.L. had proven his claim on a balance of probabilities and awarded him 14 weeks’ pay in lieu of notice, taking into account his short tenure at Carstar Downsview and the inducement to leave his prior secure employment.

He had been lured to Carstar from another auto body shop where had been working for three years. J.L. initially rebuked the job offer, stating he didn’t want to work for a shop that had a one star rating, but it continued to pursue him.

“(J.L.) was finally persuaded to attend a meeting, during which representatives of Carstar Downsview told him they would support him in the challenge of raising the auto shop’s reputation and ranking,” the court said. “They also told him that they would provide incentives to his compensation package, including generous health benefits, which were important given his son’s autism.”

J.L. mitigation efforts were deemed reasonable, as he found new employment within two weeks, albeit at a significantly lower salary.

Moral damages

Furthermore, the court found that Carstar Downsview engaged in bad faith conduct during the termination process, warranting an award of $10,000 in moral damages. J.L. testified that the owner’s comments about his performance and his son’s needs were particularly devastating, given his son’s autism and the family’s reliance on his income.

The court noted the employer’s failure to comply with ESA requirements, including the provision of a written termination letter and statutory termination pay, as additional evidence of bad faith.

“I observed that even after almost four years, during the course of giving evidence, (J.L.) still found it difficult to speak and he at times lost composure, choked and teared up, recalling the emotional impact on the termination, including the words that were said to him about his performance and his son’s needs,” the court said. “He saw himself as a family man, and the main financial support for his family. His wife only worked part-time.”

The total award to J.L. included $13,307.54 for unpaid wages and wrongful dismissal damages and $10,000 for moral damages. It also awarded costs of $5,500, inclusive of disbursements and HST.

For more information, see Lalata v 1130460 Ontario Inc. o/a Carstar Downsview, 2024 CanLII 57826 (ON SCSM)

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