Jennifer Cottrill v. Utopia Day Spas and Salons Ltd.

(British Columbia) (Civil) (By Leave)


Employment law - Aggravated damages - Employment law — Wrongful dismissal — Aggravated damages — What are the evidentiary requirements for awarding aggravated and bad faith damages — Whether the conduct of an employer, in itself and without any assessment of the harm on the employee, is sufficient to award bad faith and/or aggravated damages — What is the availability and parameters for the various categories of additional damages arising in the employment law context including aggravated, bad faith and punitive damages.


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The applicant, Jennifer Cottrill was hired by the respondent, Utopia Day Spas and Salons Ltd., as a skincare therapist and commenced employment in May, 2004. She worked on a full time basis at the spa for approximately 11 years before she was dismissed. In January 2015, the employer became concerned with Ms. Cottrill’s job performance. On March 13, 2015, two members of senior management met with Ms. Cottrill to discuss their concerns. In the meeting, Ms. Cottrill was given a letter advising of her performance deficiencies. The letter stated that she had three months to improve or she would be terminated from employment on June 12, 2015. On June 12, 2015, representatives of the employer met with Ms. Cottrill and advised her that she was terminated from her employment. She was not paid any severance as she was terminated for cause for failure to meet performance standards. Ms. Cottrill commenced a claim against her employer for wrongful dismissal. The trial judge found that she had been wrongfully dismissed and pursuant to her employment contract was entitled to eight weeks’ severance pay. In addition, because of the manner of dismissal, Ms. Cottrill was awarded $15,000 in aggravated damages. On appeal by the employer, the appeal was allowed and the aggravated damage award was set aside.