Injury to Dignity Awards Continue to Rise

On April 1, 2015, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal awarded a complainant $50,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. While this decision falls short of the Tribunal’s highest award to date for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect ($75,000), it reflects a continuing trend towards higher awards and serves as a reminder of the Tribunal’s broad remedial authority.

The complainant was a mother from the Philippines who was hired by the respondents as a housekeeper and nanny to their two children. After initially working for the respondents in Hong Kong for close to a year, the complainant joined the family when they moved to Canada where she continued her employment.

After living in Canada for six weeks, the complainant fled the respondents’ home and stayed at a secure women’s shelter for victims of human trafficking. In her complaint to the Tribunal, she alleged that the respondents discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, family status, age, race, ancestry, colour and place of origin contrary to section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code.

The Tribunal found that essentially every aspect of the employment relationship, including the contract, was exploitative and discriminatory. The respondents had continuously humiliated, demeaned, and harassed the complainant. For example, she had been threatened, called names, and even warned that her wages would be reduced should she sit down while at work.

Further, it was found that the complainant was the victim of repeated sexual assaults by one of the respondents and that she had been treated like a piece of property. As described by the Tribunal, the complainant was “a virtual slave.” In addition to damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, the complainant was awarded $5,866.89 for lost wages. A copy of this decision can be found here.

Questions relating to the content of the article may be directed to Paul Fairweather