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Spilling the ink: Tribunal sides with employer in dispute over who owns tattooing equipment

by HR Law Canada

A dispute between a former employee and a tattoo business in British Columbia over tattooing equipment has been settled by the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). The disagreement revolved around ownership of the tattooing equipment and whether compensation was owed.

NL, the former employee, previously worked for Don’t Look Down Tattoo & Apparel Ltd. (DLD). Post-resignation, she accused DLD of withholding her final pay and retaining her tattooing equipment.

Originally, NL claimed $4,900 – $1,800 for her final pay and $3,100 for the equipment. However, she later acknowledged receipt of her final pay, leaving the outstanding amount in question at $3,100 for the tattoo equipment alone.

DLD refuted her claims, arguing that her rights to the equipment were conditional. They stated her ownership was contingent on her working for them for three years post-apprenticeship, a term she didn’t fulfill. DLD further alleged that she had breached her employment contract in various ways, including departing to work for a competitor. Consequently, they argued, the equipment rightfully belonged to DLD.

Sarah Orr, the Tribunal Member, noted in the decision that “In a civil proceeding like this one, as the applicant, (NL) must prove her claims on a balance of probabilities, which means more likely than not.” After examining the evidence, including an employment contract signed on July 21, 2021, and several text messages between the two parties, the Tribunal sided with the employer.

The Tribunal’s ruling underscored that while there was mention of an equipment credit in the texts, the exact terms of the alleged collateral contract were found to be unclear, rendering it “invalid and unenforceable.”

The Tribunal decision stated, “On balance, I am not persuaded that the parties agreed on an equipment credit without a 3-year commitment. I find the terms of the collateral contract are unclear, so it is not enforceable.”

In conclusion, the Tribunal found NL had not substantiated a valid and enforceable verbal agreement for the tattooing equipment. Consequently, her claim for compensation was dismissed.

The ruling also clarified that NL was not entitled to reimbursement of CRT fees since she was unsuccessful. Neither party claimed any dispute-related expenses.

For more information see Leisher v. Don”t Look Down Tattoo & Apparel Ltd., 2023 BCCRT 700 (CanLII)

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