In their recent decision Francis v. BC Ministry of Justice (No. 5), 2021 BCHRT 16 (“Francis”), the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (“BCHRT”) awarded the complainant the largest amount ever awarded by the BCHRT as compensation for injury to dignity ($176,000).
Mr. Francis was formerly employed as a correctional officer with the Ministry of Justice, North Fraser Pre-trial Centre. In a previous decision, the BCHRT determined that Mr. Francis was discriminated against in his employment based on his race and colour, and was retaliated against when he made a human rights complaint.
This most recent decision of the BCHRT was focused on the issue of remedy. The BCHRT concluded that as a result of the “poisoned work environment”, Mr. Francis suffers from a serious mental illness and is unable to work in any capacity. Mr. Francis was awarded $964,000 in damages, which included damages for wage loss (past and future), expenses, and injury to dignity.
The BCHRT awarded the largest award to date for damages for injury to dignity. Prior to this decision, the largest injury to dignity award was $75,000.
What does this mean for employers?
Francis sets a new high for injury to dignity awards.
This decision illustrates the BCHRT’s willingness to award substantial injury to dignity awards in circumstances it considers appropriate to compensate for discrimination. There is no firm upper limit on injury to dignity awards under the B.C. Human Rights Code, and although injury to dignity awards of over $50,000 have not been common, this decision reflects a significant increase over the prior high award. It remains to be seen how Francis will impact injury to dignity awards going forward, but employers in B.C. should certainly take note of this ground-breaking decision.