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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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