The BC Human Rights Tribunal recently awarded a complainant damages for injury to dignity in the amount of $75,000.00. The previous high watermark for such awards was $35,000.00.

The complainant, Dr. Kelly, was a student in the medical residency program at the University of British Columbia who suffered from ADHD and a non-verbal learning disability. Dr. Kelly failed his first rotation in the residency program at UBC’s Kelowna Campus. He was transferred to Vancouver to complete the program where he continued to struggle. UBC ultimately terminated Dr. Kelly from the residency program, claiming his disability could not be accommodated, as to do so would put UBC in contravention of the residency guidelines established by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

An earlier award found UBC had breached section 8 of the Human Rights Code when it terminated Dr. Kelly from the residency program. As a result of his termination, Dr. Kelly was not qualified to practice as a physician, and the Tribunal found that his ability to do so was delayed as a result of UBC’s contravention of the Code. In this remedial decision, the Tribunal awarded damages in excess of $385,000 for wage loss to January 2, 2013.

The Tribunal’s additional award for injury to Dr. Kelly’s dignity is unprecedented in British Columbia. In arriving at the amount under this head of damages, the Tribunal considered the effect of UBC’s decision on Dr. Kelly’s ability to practice medicine, the fact that he had a life-long dream of becoming a physician, the subsequent humiliation and embarrassment he felt in seeking jobs related to medicine, the impact of the discrimination on his personal life, the fact that he was in an exceptionally vulnerable position as a student and a resident who suffered from a disability, and the fact that he was consistently cooperative with respect to UBC’s requests for medical information.

This decision is a significant one for employers and service providers, as it marks a substantial increase to the previous maximum for an award by the BC Human Rights Tribunal for this type of damages. It remains to be seen if this decision is unique or marks the beginning of a trend towards higher amounts awarded for injury to dignity.

A copy of the Tribunal’s remedial decision can be found here.

Kelly v. University of British Columbia (No. 4) 2013 BCHRT 302