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Worker’s $5,000 vacation pay lawsuit dismissed by B.C. small claims court over jurisdiction

by HR Law Canada

A B.C. worker who sued for $5,000 in vacation pay at small claims court has had his case dismissed. The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) refused to hear the case, involving a former worker at Capital College Ltd. (CCL), because it ruled the dispute was beyond its jurisdiction.

The worker, CK, alleged CCL owed him over $5,000 in vacation pay, but he limited his claim to $5,000 to comply with the CRT’s monetary limit. CCL denied the claim, asserting it had provided CK with all the statutory entitlements, including vacation pay, upon termination of his employment.

CK said CCL had paid him $1,960 in vacation pay for the 12 months leading up to the termination of his employment. He claimed this amount covered his statutory entitlement, but he sought an additional $5,000 for the period from Nov. 2, 2017, to Aug. 10, 2020.

The CRT’s decision relied on previous court rulings. In Macaraeg v. E Care Contact Centers Ltd., the court concluded that statutory entitlements provided by legislation do not require enforcement outside of the statute. Similarly, in Giza v. Sechelt School Bus Service Ltd. and Gould, the court dismissed a claim for unpaid statutory holiday pay, ruling that the ESA’s limitations on recoverable wages fully satisfied the plaintiff’s claim.

It noted the Employment Standards Branch (ESB) has exclusive jurisdiction over statutory entitlements, including vacation pay, under the ESA. ESA section 80(1) limits the wages an employer may be required to pay an employee to 12 months before the date of the complaint or the termination of the employment, whichever is earlier. “Wages” include statutory vacation pay under the ESA’s definitions, it said.

Based on these precedents and the exclusive jurisdiction of the ESB over statutory entitlements, the CRT ruled it lacked jurisdiction to consider CK’s additional claim for vacation pay.

Additionally, the CRT noted that neither party had submitted a copy of the employment contract, making it impossible to establish any potential contractual right to vacation pay. Consequently, the CRT concluded it had no jurisdiction to resolve CK’s vacation pay claim and, therefore, refused to address the merits of whether he had earned the claimed vacation pay.

The ruling serves as a reminder that employees seeking to assert their statutory entitlements under the ESA should pursue claims through the appropriate channels, such as the ESB, to ensure their rights are upheld.

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