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Damages Awarded For Defamatory Statements By Supervisor
July 31, 2007

A Saskatchewan judge recently awarded a dismissed employee increased damages because her former employer made defamatory statements about her following termination of her employment.

After the plaintiff’s employment was terminated, her supervisor told other employees that the she had been fired for stealing and that the theft was substantiated by video surveillance. The supervisor also made similar allegations in anonymous letters sent to former employees and the plaintiff’s sister-in-law. The supervisor later admitted that the theft allegations were groundless.

The judge awarded four weeks pay in lieu of notice. In addition, the damages were increased by a further four weeks on the basis of the supervisor’s comments, which the judge characterized as untrue, malicious and made in bad faith. Although the employer did not authorize the statements, the judge held the employer vicariously liable as the statements were made in the course of the supervisor’s work.

The judge also awarded $7,500 in damages against the supervisor personally for the defamatory letters sent to former employees and the plaintiff’s sister-in-law, observing that an unsubstantiated allegation of theft in the workplace is serious and has the potential to do lasting harm. The employer was not vicariously liable for the letters because they were written entirely out of the scope of the supervisor’s employment.

Benko v. Scott [2007] S.J. No. 213