In Osmani v. Universal Structural Restorations Ltd., 2022 ONSC 6979, the Ontario Superior Court considers the tort of human trafficking for the first time. The employer was also required to pay $185,000 to the Plaintiff for constructive dismissal, violations of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and the torts of battery and assault.
Facts of the Case
The Plaintiff moved from Albania and found a job working “off the books” in Ontario for the Defendants in 2018. He attained Temporary Foreign Worker Status in 2019. At the time of termination, the Plaintiff was a general labourer, and he was 47 years old. He had been employed with the Defendants for 14 months. The Plaintiff commenced his claim against his direct supervisor (the “Individual Defendant”) and the employer (the “Corporate Defendant”)
Throughout the Plaintiff’s employment with the Defendants, he was subjected to “humiliating, degrading and embarrassing conduct”. The court found the following to have occurred:
1) The Individual Defendant punched the Plaintiff so hard in the testicles that it had to be surgically removed;
2) The Plaintiff fell from a ladder while at work, and the Defendants interfered with his WSIB claim, inhibiting his ability to collect compensation;
3) The Individual Defendant made derogatory comments about his nationality;
4) The Individual Defendant threatened to jeopardize the Plaintiff’s immigration status; and
5) When the Plaintiff told the Individual Defendant about marital issues due to his testicle injury, the Individual Defendant responded, “I can help, bring me your wife.”
The Tort of Human Trafficking
Pursuant to the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, 2017 (“Human Trafficking Act”), an individual may commence legal action against any party who engages in human trafficking. Labour trafficking refers to the trafficking of individuals into places where they may be exploited to work for long hours without pay, rights, or protection.
The court dismissed the human trafficking claims against the Corporate Defendant as the Plaintiff was a paid employee whose pay and working conditions were on par with his colleagues. Similarly, the court found that the claims against the Individual Defendant could be dismissed. While the Individual Defendant directed the Plaintiff to assist in his home’s renovations, the court did not find the direction to be for the purpose of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of the Plaintiff. The court concluded that while the Individual Defendant behaved inappropriately, it did not amount to human trafficking.
The Court awarded the following to the Plaintiff:
1) 4 months’ of reasonable notice;
2) $100,000 in general and aggravated damages for the tort of battery;
3) $10,000 in general damages for the tort of assault;
4) $50,000 in damages for violations of the Ontario Human Rights Code; and
5) $5,794 in unpaid wages.
Important Takeaway for Employees
Courts may consider the tort of human trafficking and labour trafficking in the employment context. If an employee can demonstrate they have been exploited by their employer, the courts will take action to protect low-wage and migrant workers – arguably some of the most vulnerable employees in the workforce.
Speak to an Employment Lawyer
If you believe you have been subject to a toxic work environment, you should consider speaking with an employment lawyer at Monkhouse Law. Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm located in Toronto focusing on employees’ issues. Please contact us at 416-907-9249 or fill out this quick form for a free 30-minute phone consultation.