B.C. court strikes blow against overtime class actions

Overtime disputes a matter for employment standards branch, not common law
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2008

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has overturned a B.C. Supreme Court decision in a claim for unpaid overtime for multiple employees. The appeal court’s decision reinforced the jurisdiction of the province’s employment standards branch in such matters and could have ramifications for class-action overtime lawsuits across Canada, said Colin Gibson, a partner at Vancouver law firm Harris & Company.

When Cori Macaraeg was hired by payday loan provider E-Care Contact Centers in 2004, she was told the company didn’t pay overtime and she didn’t have an overtime provision in her employment contract. However, when she was fired two years later, she launched a lawsuit that included a claim for overtime pay for herself and all the E-Care employees who worked long hours but weren’t paid overtime.

In 2006, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the minimum overtime standards in the Employment Standards Act (ESA) were implied terms of an employment contract. That decision opened the door for claims for unpaid overtime or any other statutory rights to be pursued in court for breach of contract, said Gibson. Before that decision, overtime claims, as statutory rights, were handled under the enforcement regime provided by the ESA.