Our client was an employer that was sued in civil court for unpaid wages, overtime, vacation pay, and severance and for allegedly threatening employees not to take action to make claims for these amounts. There were over 40 former employees named as plaintiffs in this action.
The court dismissed the claims for unpaid wages, overtime, vacation pay, and severance on the basis that the Director of Employment Standards (the Director) has exclusive jurisdiction over these matters under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). In other words, the claims were dismissed as a matter of law. (This reasoning is based on the BC Court of Appeal decision in Macaraeg v E Care Contact Centres Ltd. 2008 BCCA 182.)
The plaintiffs also made the novel argument that they were entitled to damages under the tort of intimidation. Their position was that that our client threatened them with the loss of their jobs if they made a complaint to the Director, and since the deadline for making such a complaint had expired under the legislation, they argued that the court should take jurisdiction and award them damages under the tort of intimidation.
However, we successfully argued that this claim should also be dismissed. The ESA (section 83) provides a remedy for threats in the employment context and the court agreed this was sufficient to bring the claims within the Macaraeg principles. The court found as an alternative, that based on a Supreme Court of Canada decision (Central Canada Potash Co. v Saskatchewan  1 S.C.R. 42) the tort of intimidation is not available for claims based on breach of contract. As a result, the court dismissed the tort claims for damages.
This was an excellent result for our client, particularly as we were able to have these claims dismissed on a summary trial application which meant significant cost and time savings for our client.
To read the decision in Belanger v. Tsetsaut, click here.
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