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Employer punished with $150,000 in aggravated and punitive damages for termination

August 28, 2023

In Chu v China Southern Airlines Company Limited, 2023 BCSC 21, the BC Supreme Court considered the termination of a long-term employee, Mr. Chu.

Facts

Mr. Chu started working for China Southern Airlines Company Limited (the Employer) in 2008.  Mr. Chu did not have a history of misconduct until 2017. 

In 2018, the Employer hired a new general manager.  After that, the Employer demoted and disciplined Mr. Chu on several occasions for minor reasons.  This was done in a manner that embarrassed him. 

Eventually the Employer terminated Mr. Chu for cause in 2019 when he was 68 years old.  The Employer alleged incompetence and some incidents of misconduct.  The Employer refused to issue a Record of Employment.  The Employer made various serious allegations in the Response to Civil Claim.

Decision

The Court held that the Employer had no basis for cause.  The Court was highly critical of the Employer’s conduct leading up to Mr. Chu’s termination, and in its conduct through the litigation (including its allegations made in the Response to Civil Claim). 

The Court awarded the following:

  • 1- payment in lieu of reasonable notice based on 20 months;
  • 2- an award of $50,000 for aggravated damages; and
  • 3- an award of $100,000 for punitive damages.

Takeaways for employers

Employers should read this case as a cautionary tale if they are ever tempted to mistreat an employee with a view to forcing them to resign.  Employers should also be aware that their conduct during litigation can also be considered by the court when assessing damages. 

Full link to the decision is available here: 2023 BCSC 21 Chu v. China Southern Airlines Company Limited (bccourts.ca)

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Expertise

Important Notice: The information contained in this Article is intended for general information purposes only and does not create a lawyer-client relationship. It is not intended as legal advice from Harper Grey LLP or the individual author(s), nor intended as a substitute for legal advice on any specific subject matter. Detailed legal counsel should be sought prior to undertaking any legal matter. The information contained in this Article is current to the last update and may change. Last Update: August 28, 2023.

©Harper Grey LLP 2023

 

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