PSAC challenges caps on damages in Canadian Human Rights Act

August 31, 2023

PSAC has filed a challenge with the Federal Court of Canada, calling for the removal of caps on human rights damages in the Canadian Human Rights Act, on the basis that these caps violate constitutional equality rights.  

When a federal worker who has experienced discrimination in the workplace is awarded financial compensation for damages under the Canadian Human Rights Act there is a limit on the amount of damages they can receive. Since 1998, this limit has been capped at $20,000 for pain and suffering; and an additional $20,000 may be awarded where it is found that the employer discriminated in a wilful or reckless manner.

While there are limits on damages for discrimination, the amount of compensation a court can order for any other wrongful act on the part of the employer is not subject to the same limits. When a worker experiences discrimination based on sexism, racism, disability, or other human rights grounds, the impacts on their work, their life, and their health can be monumental. A global cap of $40,000 cannot meaningfully compensate a worker for pain and suffering and willful discrimination engaged in by an employer. This is especially the case given that these caps have not been adjusted for inflation since they were introduced 25 years ago.

Limiting damages under the CHRA is an added act of discrimination against individuals who have already experienced harm from discriminatory treatment on the part of their employer.

PSAC has filed a challenge to the limits on damages, on the basis that these limits violate equality rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. PSAC has filed its Statement of Claim* and evidentiary record, including expert affidavits. The government has filed its Statement of Defence** and is expected to file its evidentiary record in due course.  A hearing date has not yet been confirmed.

For more information 

Read PSAC’s statement of claim
*Unfortunately, the statement of claim is only available in English at this time. 

Read the government statement of defence 
**Unfortunately, the statement of defence is only available in English at this time. 

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

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