Damages for Injury to Dignity Significantly Increased by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal
In Kelly v. University of British Columbia (No. 4), 2013 BCHRT 302, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal awarded the complainant, Dr. Carl Kelly, $75,000 in damages for injury to dignity. This is more than double the previous highest award of $35,000, set in Senyk v. WFG Agency Network (B.C.) Inc., 2008 BCHRT 376.
Dr. Kelly was a medical school graduate who had been diagnosed with ADHD and a non-verbal learning disability. Between November 2005 and August 2007, Dr. Kelly experienced significant difficulties integrating with and passing his residency program rotations. He continuously consulted a psychiatrist and numerous other specialists during the 21 months he tried to satisfy the program requirements.
Though UBC made attempts to accommodate him, Dr. Kelly continued to perform below expectations in many of his rotations. In August 2007, after further medical assessments, UBC decided that Dr. Kelly was unsuitable for the program and discharged him with two months’ severance pay.
The Tribunal found UBC’s actions to be discrimination in employment and in the provision of services customarily available to the public.
In making the award for injury to dignity, the Tribunal noted the following bases:
- the effect of UBC’s decision to terminate on Dr. Kelly’s ability to fulfill his lifelong dream of practicing medicine;
- the humiliation and embarrassment Dr. Kelly experienced when he was forced to seek employment in medicine-related fields;
- the significant impact of UBC’s decision on his personal life;
- that Dr. Kelly was in an particularly vulnerable position as a student and a medical resident suffering from a disability; and
- that he consistently cooperated with UBC’s requests for medical information.
Damage awards for injury to dignity at the Tribunal are rarely above the $20,000 mark, and this decision represents a significant increase that will likely have the effect of raising the average awards for injury to dignity in the future. The case is also a good reminder that the Tribunal focuses on the individual impacts in determining damages for injury to dignity.
Injury to Dignity