Honda Canada penalized for discrimination toward employee with chronic fatigue syndrome

 

In March, an Ontario Court ordered Honda Canada Inc. to pay $500,000 in punitive damages plus two years’ salary to a former employee with a disability, the highest penalty ever imposed for an employment case in Canada.

Kevin Keays, 38, worked at the auto manufacturer for 14 years. Mr. Justice John McIsaac of the Ontario Superior Court said it was “without debate” that Keays was a dedicated and conscientious employee who was respected by his colleagues. He was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 1996 after experiencing symptoms for several years. When drowsiness interfered with his job performance, Keays attempted to work out an accommodation with his employer but was met with strong resistance. He was subsequently fired in March, 2000.

In his decision, Justice McIsaac said that Keays was a victim of discrimination and harassment and that Honda should have recognized his illness as a disability. “[Mr. Keays’] condition was incompatible with the ‘lean’ and efficient operation demanded by Honda’s corporate policy. The computer-managed workplace ‘trumped’ his human right.”

According to The Globe and Mail, Hugh Scher, the Toronto lawyer who represented Keays, said the decision will have implications for other Canadians who have chronic fatigue syndrome. He added that punitive damages are rarely awarded in employment cases, and are seldom higher than $25,000.

Honda is planning to appeal the decision.

 

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