The battle over $36: Labour board refuses to issue declaration against employer over late payment of award

Photo: Julie Kislev/Canva

The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board has refused to issue a declaration against an employer that was late in paying a $500 award to one of its employees who then sought an additional $36 to compensate him for monetary loss.

The worker, BF, accused his employer — the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) — of an unfair labour practice. His claim contends that the agency breached the Saskatchewan Employment Act by not complying with a payment order issued by the Labour Relations Board (LRB) on Dec. 22, 2022.

The underlying dispute stems from a previous ruling in which the board found SPSA guilty of unfair labour practices and subsequently ordered the agency to reimburse BF $500 for related expenses. The payment was set with a 30-day deadline.

However, BF said SPSA took 96 days, over three times the stipulated period, to process the payment. For this delay, he was seeking a compensation of $36, alleging the delay amounted to a violation of the Employment Act.

In response, SPSA attributes the delay to misunderstandings surrounding potential judicial reviews. They also mentioned that BF did not communicate with them about the outstanding payment, resulting in its oversight. Once aware of the oversight, the agency promptly processed the payment and is currently compensating him for the $36 he incurred during the payment recovery process.

The board said that, while its orders are intended to be obeyed, there are “other, more relevant and compelling principles that apply in the current case.”

First, it said there is a need for parties to be judicious in their use of public resources to resolve small — or de minimus — disputes.

“The employer has indicated, and (BF) does not contest, that he did not contact the employer to request payment but instead instigated additional proceedings against it,” the board said.

It noted the employer was paying BF the additional $36 he sought, which made the practical dispute in this case moot.

Given that, it said the only purpose to the declaration was to penalize and perhaps humiliate the employer. The board has said, repeatedly, that it’s role in providing remedies is not to penalize the respondent but to make the applicant whole.

It made no excuses for the employer’s delay in processing the ordered payment to BF. Individuals should not have to pursue an organization (or any person) to effect payment of remedy owing, it said.

“That being said, organizations are made of people and sometimes people make mistakes,” it said. “The question is whether these circumstances justify the remedy sought. The board thinks that they do not.”

The application was dismissed.

For more information, see Bryan Fraser v Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, 2023 CanLII 70185 (SK LRB)

Author