• Alex Robertson

Employment Standards Act claims in B.C.

The Supreme Court of BC has held that Employment Standards claims arising from

breaches of BC’s Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) are within the exclusive

jurisdiction of the Province’s Employment Standards Branch and, as a result, cannot be

pursued in a civil court action.


BELANGER v. TSETSAUT VENTURES LTD.


In the case of Belanger v. Tsetsaut Ventures Ltd. 2019 BCSC 560, a civil action was

brought against an employer by a group of its employees for breaches of the ESA and

damages arising from the tort of intimidation. The alleged breaches were regarding non-

payment of overtime, statutory holiday, and vacation pay, while the intimidation arose

from alleged threats from the employer to fire any employee who sought to collect any

outstanding ESA entitlements.


The employer denied the employees’ claims and brought a summary trial application to

have the action dismissed. The employees argued that the ESA does not specify a

remedy for violations of the Act and, therefore, they were entitled to seek a remedy from the Supreme Court.


THE DECISION


In assessing the employees’ claims, the Court reviewed an earlier decision of the BC

Court of Appeal, Macaraeg v. E Care Contact Centers Ltd., 2008 BCCA 182. Using

Macaraeg, the Court held that the employees’ claims could not be enforced by civil

action and that the ESA provides a complete and administrative structure for enforcing

rights. The Court further held that BC’s Employment Standards Branch has the

exclusive jurisdiction to hear such claims via its complaint process and noted that the

employees neglected to do this.


The employees’ claim for damages resulting from breaches of the ESA was dismissed.

Further, their claim for damages from the tort of intimidation was also dismissed as the

Court held intimidation had not been clearly established.


The Court concluded that the employees should have pursued these claims by filing

complaints with the Employment Standards Branch and it is important to note that there is a six-month statutory time limit to file such complaints unless it determined that

special circumstances exist or existed and/or an injustice would otherwise result.


THE TAKEAWAY


As made clear by the Court in Belanger, employment standards claims in BC must be

filed with the Employment Standards Branch and not pursued in a civil lawsuit. It is not

in the Courts’ jurisdiction to hear employment standards claims; jurisdiction lies

exclusively with the Employments Standards Branch.


We strongly recommend that employers and employees seek legal advice when facing

decisions involving Employment Standards claims. If you have any questions, please

contact us at (604) 736 9791 or email Alex Robertson ar@dwslaw.ca.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal

advice, and is only to provide general information. Should you require legal advice for

your particular situation, please get in touch with us. The information for this article was

compiled on July 31, 2021. Any updates made to the article can be found at

dwslaw.ca/articles.