Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Employment & Labour

Awareness of overtime, payment issues increasing

The Internet age has played a role in publicizing overtime, underpayment and non-payment workplace issues, prompting employees to pay close attention to their rights, says Toronto civil litigation and employment lawyer Arthur Zeilikman.

Canada Cartage is facing a $100-million class-action lawsuit over allegations it failed to pay its employees for overtime hours, Canadianmanufacturing.com reports.

The statement of claim alleges Canada Cartage and its related companies did not properly compensate employees for overtime under the Canada Labour Code, the report says.

It alleges the logistics firm regularly required or permitted some or all of its former and current employees to work hours above and beyond their standard hours, the website reports, noting the statement of claim further alleges around July 2012, Canada Cartage improperly and unilaterally reduced some employees’ rates of pay in order to make it appear as though they were being appropriately paid overtime.

In August, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified a similar class action against BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. involving unpaid overtime.

“With the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of information, people are becoming more and more aware that underpayment (or non-payment) is a real problem,” says Zeilikman.

“It remains to be seen whether Canada Cartage actually failed to pay for overtime work – at this point, these are mere allegations. However, but for the amount of the damages claimed, the lawsuit is not unique. It is not uncommon for employers not to honour or even be aware of statutory overtime provisions.”

What should employers keep in mind as such lawsuits become more common?

“Obtain legal advice and try to avoid legal problems that are foreseeable,” Zeilikman says, noting these cases highlight the “severe financial repercussions” employers may face if such actions are successful.

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