Caroline, a 65 year old grandmother had been a legal secretary with the largest law firm in St. Catharines for 40 years. As a result of her hard work she had earned the position of executive assistant to one of the firm’s senior partners. Caroline was paid an annual salary of $50,000.00. On December 22nd after a pleasant exchange of “good mornings” Caroline’s boss requested that she set up coffee service for a client meeting in the boardroom. “Not likely” said Caroline, “It’s not in my job description”. Caroline was immediately fired. She was escorted out of the office by the office security guard and left on the street. Her request to use a telephone to call a taxi was rejected. Caroline commenced an action for unjust dismissal. In addition, she has requested $100,000.00 in damages for the humiliation which she suffered and for mental distress. At the trial one of the other legal assistants testified that Caroline had taken home office supplies which she had given to her grandchildren to complete their school work. As well, she had typed and photocopied their assignments during working hours. Finally, it was claimed that Caroline would regularly leave early or go home sick when her boss was out of the office. Caroline acknowledged that this was all true, although she stated that she had left early on a “few” occasions and not “regularly”. Caroline also claimed that the workplace had become increasingly toxic over the past few years. On a number of occasions there had been heated exchanges between the lawyers and staff and there was increased pressure to increase production and adapt to new systems. Although Caroline was not directly impacted by the new rules she said that she no longer felt “safe” in the work environment, and that she was unable to sleep and had been seeing a counsellor to deal with the stress. Her boss had dismissed her complaints, jokingly saying that she was getting old and probably had early onset of dementia that was creating the stress. Caroline has been unable to obtain similar employment, although a friend had offered her a retail clerking job at $35,000.00 per year. Although no potential legal employer has said why they have not offered her a position, she feels that it is likely because of her age and because of the stigma of being “fired” from her previous employment.Required: Provide the judgment which would be rendered in this case with particular reference to the positions advanced by each of the parties. If Caroline is successful, what damages would she receive? Be certain to include an explanation of the applicable legal principles in your answer.
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