Northern Exposure

Shocking Arbitration Decision in Ontario

By Donna Gallant

The latest price tag for terminating an employee based on inadequate investigation and preconceived notions of guilt is $500,000. In a searing decision, an Ontario arbitrator found that the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) failed to take reasonable steps to ascertain the truth about an employee’s medical condition before it fired her for alleged sick leave fraud.

According to the arbitrator, the GTAA’s high-handed and capricious conduct amounted to a breach of trust and the GTAA was held accountable for the devastating effects the termination had on the grievor’s mental and financial wellbeing.

After 15 days of hearing, Arbitrator Shime ordered the GTAA to pay its former employee more than five years of lost earnings to the date of the award, as well as $100,000 in damages for mental stress and punitive damages. He also said that the grievor would likely have stayed with GTAA until retirement at age 55 and awarded damages to compensate her for the $30,000-a-year drop in her earning potential until then. The GTAA has applied for judicial review of the award.

Regardless of the outcome on judicial review, there are some good lessons for all Canadian employers in this decision. Stay tuned for our publication in three weeks when we will be discussing the case in more detail.

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