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Ex-employee awarded record $500,000 in punitive damages
April 22, 2005

An Ontario court has ordered Honda Canada to pay a record $500,000 in punitive damages for “outrageous” conduct leading to its dismissal of an employee with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (“CFS”).

Honda initially responded to the employee’s frequent absences, which were caused by his CFS, by disciplining him. It then referred him to a company doctor who suggested there was nothing wrong with him. When the employee then attempted to work out a program with Honda to accommodate his condition, he was met with “insensitive stone-walling” on the part of management.

The Court also found that Honda then “bullied” the employee to see its occupational medicine specialist, a physician who was of the opinion that CFS patients should resist fatigue by exercise and attendance at work. The employee refused to do so without assurances that he would not be treated the same way as he had been by the other company doctor. Honda refused to provide those assurances and dismissed him.

The Court awarded the employee 15 months’ salary for wrongful dismissal. It also found that Honda had acted in “egregious bad faith” and, pursuant to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Wallace, increased the award to 24 months.

Finally, in view of what it described as Honda’s “outrageous treatment of its long-term employee”, the Court ordered Honda to pay the employee a record $500,000 in punitive damages.

Keays v. Honda Canada Inc., 2005 CanLII 8730 (ON. S.C.)