Workplace Investigations

Case Summary

This is a summary of case law dealing with issues of an unfair investigative process, discussed above.

Case Details Aggravated Punitive
Elmsdale Landscaping v Hiltz

August 2023

Nova Scotia CA

The employer was not candid with Mr. Hiltz about the suspension, its duration or any conditions that may have ended it.

Plff advised that he was laid off due to work shortage, yet the company continued to hire additional employees for its busy season.

It was clear that Mr. Hiltz specifically was not to be recalled to work, even as work was available.

Elmsdale had intimate personal knowledge and experience with this worker developed over the course of 17 years. Elmsdale had made meaningful accommodations for Mr. Hiltz over that time to support his personal circumstances. It was an act of bad faith for those personal accommodations to be the subject of Mr. Coupar’s call to Mr. Hiltz by calling him ‘bad with money’.


Osmani v Universal


December 2022

USRL engaged in a series of acts that poisoned the workplace and undermined the employee/employer relationship. These acts include: failing to respond to Mr. Osmani’s repeated complaints about Mr. De-Almeida’s conduct, which USRL knew involved a strike to the testicles as well as verbal abuse; failing to conduct any investigation into and/or discipline of Mr. De-Almeida, failing to separate Mr. Osmani and Mr. De-Almeida for anything more than a short “happenstance” period of time.

$50,000 human rights was for failure to investigate which led to poisoned workplace.


$100,000 Assault

$10,000 battery

$75,000 on dismissal

Human rights violations $50,000

$25,000 against personal def
Rutledge v Markhaven

OSC November 2022

The manner of the investigation was not by “an independent third party” as plff was advised in writing.  The investigation commenced earlier culminating with a capture of her emails after months of being aware of an allegation Laura Rutledge was responsible for Arjun Sathyaseelan’s selection as Food Services Manager on the basis of a romantic relationship and contrary to her responsibility to put the best interests of her employer first.

Plff gave evidence of attending her examination for discovery and observing photographs of her home with comment by defence counsel of a pending motion for security for costs (which was never brought).


Humphrey v Mene motion; upheld by OCA July 2022 COO plff requested raise, which was followed by suspension notice; plff found about suspension from a vendor; memo to employees advising plff was suspended pending investigation; allegations of just cause maintained until one day prior to hearing date; malevolent litigation tactics $50,000 $25,000
McGraw v Southgate

OSC Oct 2021

The defendants acted on unfounded, sexist allegations relating primarily to conduct from years prior, without properly ascertaining the truth and without even asking Ms. McGraw about the allegations. Mr. Milliner conducted an amateurish investigation. He conflated gossip with facts. Without justification, he accepted the allegations and assumed the worst of the fire department’s only two paid staff. He failed to recognize the patent gender-based discrimination directed at Ms. McGraw.

The allegations were fantastical. They were made in a male-dominated environment. The defendants ought to have been highly suspicious that the allegations were based on discrimination. The failure of the defendants to support Ms. McGraw against discrimination was a significant, distressing failure.

Plff was one of the female instructors at the fire college, she was unjustly accused of giving grades for sex.

Mr. Milliner, the investigator, misunderstood or misremembered the story told to him by Mr. Sherson, and incorrectly attributed the blame to Ms. McGraw.



$35,000 Human Rights award

$20,000 defamation

Bassanese v. German Canadian News



The employer ignored her complaint and neglected to investigate the complaint or take steps to address inappropriate conduct.

Note: The case was not defended

Horner v. 897469



The employer’s conduct was malicious, oppressive and high-handed. Instead of investigation of the bullying, the plff was terminated.

Note: case was undefended

$20,000 $10,000
Lalonde v Sena Solid Waste

Alberta QB



Defendant had made up his mind to dismiss the Plaintiff within days of his suspension, therefore supporting the conclusion that the investigation was at best incompetent and unfair and at worst a sham. The Defendant clearly ignored or failed to give proper weight to information it received from another employee. $75,000
Doyle v Zochem



Cursory investigation of sexual harassment complaint allowed for aggravated damages. Short term disability application wrongfully denied. The company requested employees to “dig up dirt” on plff.

Employer assured Doyle that her job was not in jeopardy when in fact the decision to terminate had already been made and the termination letter was probably already in the making.

Termination due to gender and sexual harassment complaint.


$60,000 plus $20,000 as human rights compensatory award
Price v. 481530 B.C. Ltd

B.C.S.C 2016


Plff suffering from cancer and suffering from stress. Employer made allegations of many dishonest acts, including theft; Loss of future employment could result from these allegations; $50,000

$100,000 in damages for tort of conspiracy to injure

Morison v Ergo-Industrial Seating

Oct 2016



Plff was terminated  by a quick telephone call followed by a letter that alluded to the possibility of cause.

Allegations of cause initially pleaded and the lack of a reasonable belief on the part of the defendant to support the allegations of cause;

the lack of any warning and of any investigation;

the lack of reasons provided by the employer at the time of dismissal; the two months’ delay by the defendant in providing the plaintiff with his record of employment;

delay in paying ESA sum;

Karmel v Calgary Jewish Academy

Alb QB Nov 2015

Employer was unreasonable in recommending the termination; it also acted in bad faith for much of the time leading up to the termination.

The tight-knit nature of the Calgary Jewish community meant that the issues faced by Mr. Karmel in his role as Principal of the CJA were especially significant. While some professionals distinguish between their work and personal lives, Mr. Karmel’s were one in the same. His future at the CJA was therefore bound up with his role and reputation in his community.

Lau v RBC


Sept 2015;


The company conducted a flawed investigation as it did not interview the complaining customer. It also failed to retain the relevant video tape and other evidence and hence prevented the plaintiff from making a proper response to the allegations made against him.

Plff was never given the client’s statement, bank records and the confession obtained from a colleague. From the outset the court found that the Bank believed the client and that Lau was a liar.

This decision on the aggravated damages question was set aside by the B.C. Court of Appeal which, while agreeing medical evidence is not a mandatory prerequisite, nonetheless saw no evidence to support this award.

Boucher v Wal-Mart


May 2014

Unfair investigation

Jury at trial had ordered $1 million in punitive damages which was reduced on appeal to $100,000, against Wal-Mart.

It also awarded damages of $250,000 against the manager, Pinnock, made up of $100,000 for intentional infliction of mental suffering, and $150,000 in punitive damages (awards for which Wal-Mart is vicariously liable as Pinnock's employer).

The punitive award against the manager was reduced on appeal to $10,000.

Pinnock's conduct was flagrant and outrageous. He belittled, humiliated and demeaned Boucher continuously and unrelentingly, often in front of co-workers, for nearly six months. The tort award remained in place.


$200,000 plus $100,000 for tort of intentional infliction of mental suffering against the manager $100,000 against employer and $10,000 against manager
City of Calgary v CUPE

Alberta arbitrator

December 2013

Unfair investigation which enhanced plff’s suffering due to lack of action;

Arbitrator was allowed to use common law, human rights and arbitral remedies on consent of the parties

Pate v Galway

OCA November 2013

Unfair investigation; employer hid exculpatory documents; criminal charges; small town; severe personal suffering. $75,000 $450,000
Middleton v. Municipality of Highlands East

The full text is not on Canlii. The link is to the costs decision.

It is referenced in Strudwick.


No procedural fairness (being terminated without investigation into the concerns prompting the termination and without being advised of the concerns), was not paid his statutory minimums, was not provided with a letter of recommendation, and had a record of employment stating he did not meet the expectations of his position. He suffered embarrassment, damage to his self-worth and self-esteem, interference with his sleep and strains in his relationships with others. $30,000
Vernon v B.C.


January 2012


Improper selection of investigator as this person had been previously the plaintiff’s labour relations advisor and was the person to whom Mrs. Vernon confided previously on other matters and on these issues.

The process was biased as the investigator proceeded to assemble a list of witnesses who she knew would have negative views of the plaintiff;

The plaintiff was at this initial meeting given a letter containing eight complaints and asked for her immediate response, without the chance to prepare.

Witnesses who supported the plaintiff were accused of lying.

Court saw flawed investigation as being not within Wallace time constraints. Other events were at the time of termination.


$35,000 $50,000
Elgert v Home Hardware

Alb CA

April 2011


Unfair investigation of sexual harassment allegations;

Trial award of $300,000 aggravated and $200,000 punitive revised on appeal.

$50,000 and $60,000 damages in defamation against personal defendants $75,000
MacDonald-Ross v. Connect North America


July 2010

Employer concocted cause after-the-fact based on unfounded allegations of misappropriation of funds and knowingly communicating these unfounded allegations to the police is reprehensible and egregious. $50,000
Review of arbitrator’s award upheld

Pagliaroli v. Rite-Pak Produce

OSC June 2010

Allegations of ‘dishonest activities’ at company Christmas party and on other occasions

“Mr. Pagliaroli, his wife and son each testified as to Mr. Pagliaroli’s manner, demeanor and attitude following November, 2007.  No medical evidence was adduced…I am satisfied on the evidence…that Mr. Pagliaroli suffered by reason of the speech in a manner beyond that caused merely by the constructive dismissal.”


Downham v County of Lennox and Addington,

OSC Dec 2005

Biased, shoddy investigation;

Employer intended to cause not only mental distress but social and economic damage. Para 239

By generating a substantially false investigation report which was circulated to senior staff and politicians in a small community and by the grossly exaggerated content of the letter of dismissal, the County created a stigma which prevented  Mr. Downham from in finding alternate employment.  The County must be responsible for this longer period of unemployment and not just the period of notice justified by the Bardal factors.

$50,000 plus tort of intentional infliction of mental suffering of $20,000 and 5 months incremental notice;

Defamation $1,000