Company not allowed to deduct money from driver’s wages for damaged rental van

Hutchins v. Atlantic Provincial Security Guard Services Ltd., 1995 CarswellNB 609 (N.B. Labour & Employment Bd.)

In 1995, Gerald Hutchins was driving a rented mini-van while delivering packages for Atlantic Provincial Security Guard Services.

When he didn’t bring the vehicle back on Friday, the president of the company phoned Hutchins to find out where it was. He said he didn’t have a car and asked if he could use the van over the weekend. The president reluctantly agreed.

That cost the firm $40, which they deducted from Hutchins’ wages. The court found that the $40 deduction was reasonable and correct.

On another day Hutchins was driving a company van which broke down. While it was in the shop, he drove a van from Rent-A-Wreck. When it was returned, one of the rear doors had been damaged to the tune of $425.

Hutchins said he didn’t know how the damage had happened, but acknowledged he had been the only one driving it.

The president demanded Hutchins pay $200 from his wages until the damages were covered.

Hutchins said he could accept $100 deductions. The company said no, and Hutchins quit. The entire amount was deducted from his final wages.

Hutchins’ driving record was not stellar. He had had two previous accidents while driving company vehicles in less than a year of employment. He had explanations about the two accidents and why they weren’t his fault; the company covered the costs for both of them.

The president suspected Hutchins was intentionally damaging the vans but could not prove it.

The court found there was no “clear and reasonable proof of employee fault” in the damage of the van, and “hence no basis whatsoever on which this deduction could be properly made.” The court said that the Employment Standards Act requires employers to pay wages “without dispute or hesitation” and, if they wish, to later sue for damages to get the money back.

The court ordered Atlantic Security Guard Services to pay Hutchins the $425 deducted from his salary for repairs to the rented van.

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