This case concerned the role of human rights and non-discrimination in employment contracts.
LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Kevin Keays worked for Honda Canada for 11 years before being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. He stopped working for a while, but returned and worked in a disability program after Honda’s insurer discontinued his benefits. Honda later terminated Mr. Keays’ employment after he wouldn’t meet with a doctor as Honda had requested.
Mr. Keays sued for wrongful dismissal. The trial judge found that Mr. Keays had been wrongfully terminated. He awarded Mr. Keays’ 15 months’ pay in lieu of notice, which he increased to 24 months based on Honda’s discrimination, harassment, and misconduct against Mr. Keays. He also awarded Mr. Keays $500,000 in punitive damages. A majority of the Court of Appeal reduced the punitive damages to $100,000. Both sides appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
LEAF argued that employment contracts should have an implied term recognizing human rights obligations, including the obligation not to discriminate. This would mean that, when employers breached their employee’s human rights (e.g. through discrimination such as sexual harassment), employees could receive civil damages for the harms they suffered. They would no longer be limited to filing human rights claims – instead, they could also file civil lawsuits for discrimination by employers. This would improve access to justice.
The Supreme Court agreed that Mr. Keays had been wrongfully dismissed. However, the Court found that Mr. Keays should not have received punitive damages. A majority of the Court also found that Honda had not acted in bad faith or discriminated in terminating Mr. Keays’ employment, and so Mr. Keays should not have received damages beyond the 15 months’ pay in lieu of notice.
LEAF is grateful to Susan Ursel and Kim Bernhardt, counsel in this case, as well as Carole Brown, Ottawa agent for LEAF.
Download the factum here.
Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].