Car trouble is not pressing personal business worthy of paid leave: Board

Most convenient course of action doesn't qualify as pressing personal business, says arbitration board

A British Columbia company is not required to pay an employee for missed time at work because of car trouble, the B.C. Arbitration Board has ruled.

Derek Mason, a customer help representative for Telus Mobility in Burnaby, B.C., was driving to work on Nov. 1, 2006. On the way, his car started having problems and he drove to a side street and called the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) for assistance. He stayed with the car until a BCAA tow truck arrived and took his car to a garage. He then went to work and arrived nearly two hours late.

Mason claimed he shouldn’t lose any pay for his missed time as the collective agreement stipulated employees were allowed up to one day off with pay to attend to “pressing personal business,” which was defined as a personal matter that only the employee can take care of and can’t wait.

However, Telus disagreed, saying car trouble didn’t meet the collective agreement’s definition and Mason wasn’t entitled to be paid for the time he missed.

The board agreed with Telus in finding Mason didn’t need to miss time and the situation could have waited. The situation wasn’t urgent, the board said, and vehicle breakdowns were normal, everyday occurrences that didn’t meet the agreement’s intention of allowing employees to deal with unique, urgent matters.

Mason’s way of handling the situation was what he thought was the best way to handle it, the board said, but not the only way. Given he had to get to work, he could have locked the car, gone to work and dealt with it later or could have had someone else deal with it. Instead he chose what was more convenient but caused him to be late to work.

“The convenient way dealing with personal business is not the same as pressing personal business,” the board said. “It was the manner chosen by (Mason) to deal with the car breakdown which made him late for work, not the circumstances of the breakdown.”

The board found the breakdown didn’t meet the requirements of “pressing personal business” under the collective agreement and ruled Telus wasn’t required to pay Mason for the time he missed because of it. See Telus Communications Inc. v. T.W.U., 2008 CarswellBC 992 (B.C. Arb. Bd.).

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