Inaccurate pension premiums don't have to be repaid

Worker was being paid at different rate

An arbitrator has ordered an X-ray technician’s pension benefits be returned to the worker, despite years of “self-editing” timesheets at a higher rate of pay.

Deborah Sharpe worked at Central Health in St. John’s, NL. Between March 9, 2009, to May 15, 2013, Sharpe was classified as an LX-25 technician, but entered biweekly pay records at an LX-28 level, thus increasing her pension.

In a termination letter May 2013, Central Health wrote, “the employer has no alternative but to view your actions as intent to defraud the employer of salary/wages you are not entitled to... You will be required to repay the amount of salary overpayment made to you since March 2, 2009.”

The worker was supposed to be paid at the LX-25 rate, but because she fulfilled the duties of an LX-28 employee, she was paid at that higher rate and was able to make higher pension payments. Sharpe also periodically replaced the LX-28 worker when he was away.

The worker’s time sheets were approved and signed by her supervisor, Gloria Bath, first manually as paper time sheets, then after a systems upgrade, digitally.

A July 4, 2014, mediation reinstated Sharpe, but with some conditions. She was ordered to pay back $33,390 from the retroactive entitlement, as well as employment insurance premiums. 

The employer requested the pension department make an adjustment to the employee’s pensionable earnings to reflect a lower rate of pay. An overpayment cheque of $2,381.98 was issued. 

The annual pension earnings difference between the rates would have been $2,399.90.

But neither the employee nor the union knew about this request. Arbitrator Wayne Thistle wrote that the employer should have notified Sharpe and the union about the issue, but it didn’t. 

The issue was during the time Sharpe was unemployed from May 15, 2013 to Sept. 7, 2014, where she should have to pay her 50 per cent share of insurance premiums. 

“The grievor paid for personal insurance during the period she had been terminated. It would be unreasonable and likely ineffective for her to make retroactive payments since she would already have claimed through her personal insurance should she have had any claims during that period,” said the arbitrator. 

He ordered Central Health to “revert the grievor’s pensionable earnings from March 9, 2009, to May 15, 2013, to the rate of LX-28, which would be as they initially were prior to the employer instructing the Pensions Division to amend them in September 2013 to the lower rate of pay at LX-25.”

References: Central Regional Integrated Health Authority and Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees. Arbitrator — Wayne Thistle. Raelene Lee for the employer. Christina Kennedy for the union. April 5, 2016.

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