Employment Law Update – Damages For Mental Distress

The Ontario Court of Appeal has, at least for now, closed the door to damages for negligent infliction of mental distress by an employer to an employee. The case (Piresferreira v. Ayotte – [2010] O.J. No. 2224) reduced an award at trial of close to $500,000 to just below $150,000.

The issue of greatest interest is how the Court dealt with the conduct of the Plaintiff’s tough boss. She was loud, critical, and abusive and in the final incident shoved the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff testified that she was devastated emotionally by the conduct and was unable to return to any kind of work.

 The Court recognized that the Plaintiff could theoretically recover for intentional infliction of mental suffering but not negligent infliction of mental suffering. The Court pointed out that the trial judge did not make a finding of intention on the part of the Employer Defendant.

 It is likely that the case will go on for final determination to the Supreme Court of Canada. For now the test for damages for abusive conduct will be a more difficult one for employees to meet.

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