TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES FAIRLY AND DECENTLY OR PAY THE CONSEQUENCES
Melanie McGraw is one impressive firefighter. A captain in her local volunteer force in Dundalk, Ontario and its administrative assistant, a part time instructor for the Ontario Fire College, and now a full-time Platoon Chief in Kirkland Lake, her dedication to the fire service is second to none. We all know volunteer first responders and their love for their community. Almost always, the community responds in kind.
But not in this case.
Vague and harmful rumours about Melanie’s personal life began circulating in 2018. In response, the town conducted a brief investigation and fired her in February, 2019. They did not tell Melanie the reasons for her termination of employment, or even that she had been under investigation. Melanie was devastated.
After contacting our firm, we reviewed her claim, and we sued the Township of Southgate for damages. As it turned out, the rumours that were circulating about Melanie were completely without foundation — the allegations made in thin air.
Moreover, it came to light during trial that the town’s CEO not only ran an amateurish investigation into the allegations and rumours surrounding Melanie, but also, he just made stuff up. Fortunately, we caught the employer’s slander of Melanie on tape. Twice.
Following a lengthy trial, Mel was awarded $60,000 in punitive damages, $20,000 for defamation and another $110,000 for moral damages, which primarily aimed to compensate Melanie for mental distress arising from the manner of termination. The municipality did not appeal.
We are proud of the outcome of this case; but more so, we are proud of Mel. Too often in employment settings gender-based discrimination, and defamatory remarks are brushed aside. Employers may do little to put a stop to the behaviour, and targeted employees may feel that they need to ‘deal with it’, regardless of the internal pain it causes them. At Tamming Law, it’s cases like this that fuel our determination for helping give a voice to individuals that have been victimized.