Injury to Dignity Awards Rising in BC

Injury to dignity awards are on the rise in BC, according to a recent decision from the Human Rights Tribunal.

Employee discrimination in BC

In a May 10, 2019 decision, indexed as 2019 BCHRT 97, the Tribunal concluded that an employee - the complainant - had been the victim of sexual harassment from her employer. When she rejected her boss's sexual advances, she had her hours cut. As a result of the harassment, the employee left the job. She suffered from significant trauma afterwards.

After concluding that the employee had been discriminated against, the Tribunal considered how much to award her. In every case of discrimination, the Tribunal has the discretion to award an amount to compensate a complainant for "injury to their dignity, feelings, and self-respect" (often referred to simply as "injury to dignity" damages). The Tribunal noted that in a comparable case from 2011, a complainant had been awarded $22,500 for injury to dignity. In less similar cases - involving more severe sexual harassment - the Tribunal had awarded $25,000 to one complainant (in 2010) and $50,000 to another complainant (in 2015).

Based on previous cases, one might anticipate that a reasonable injury to dignity award in this case would have been in the range of $22,500. But the Tribunal observed that the upper limit for injury to dignity awards has increased in recent years. Commenting on the injury to dignity awards made in previous cases, the Tribunal stated:

Ultimately, however, I do not find that the comparison with these cases undermines [the complainant's] claim. Those cases are now several years old. Since they were decided, the BC Court of Appeal has upheld an award of $75,000: Kelly.

Considering the age of the previous decisions and the general upward trend, the Tribunal awarded $40,000 to the complainant as compensation for injury to dignity (in addition to compensation that she received for lost wages and expenses).

What does this mean for employees and employers?

Moving forward, employees and employers will need to consider the possibility that the Tribunal will be issuing higher injury to dignity awards than in past cases. Assuming this trend continues, injury to dignity awards from older cases should still be helpful as a starting point. But depending on their age, they may need to be inflated to reflect the general upward direction of injury to dignity awards.

brendan harvey - wrongful dismissal vancouver
About the Author

Brendan Harvey advises and represents employees and small businesses at all stages before, during, and after the employment relationship. His primary areas of practice include wrongful dismissal, employment standards, and human rights litigation. If you would like to schedule a meeting with Brendan Harvey or any other of our lawyers, give us a call at 604-988-1000.


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