Home Employment Contracts Respite care worker’s award for breach of contract slashed after she fails to provide evidence around mitigation

Respite care worker’s award for breach of contract slashed after she fails to provide evidence around mitigation

by HR Law Canada

The British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) has slashed its award in a contract dispute case involving a respite care worker after she admitted to returning to a previous job after termination — but failed to provide any evidence of how much she earned.

“When a party fails to provide relevant evidence, the CRT may make an adverse inference. An adverse inference is when the CRT assumes that the reason a party did not provide evidence is that the evidence would not help their case,” the Tribunal said. “I find that evidence about what (KR) earned in January is clearly relevant, and I find that an adverse inference is appropriate.”

The worker, KR, was awarded about $735 in small claims court after her contract was abruptly terminated even though it ruled she missed out on up to $4,000 in compensation.

KR accused the employer, RT, of terminating her agreement without the required 30-day notice, a claim the employer denied, citing the worker’s failure to meet certain contractual requirements. Both parties represented themselves in this dispute, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Civil Resolution Tribunal due to its nature as a small claim.

The Tribunal was tasked with resolving two key issues: whether RT breached the contract by not providing a 30-day notice, and if so, the extent of KR’s damages.

Evidence presented included the written agreement signed on Sept. 20, 2022, which outlined the nature of KR’s respite care services in RT’s home. The contract allowed for shift cancellations with a minimum of two hours’ notice. KR claimed that RT began canceling shifts more frequently in December 2022, leading to a confrontation on Dec. 30, which KR interpreted as the end of their agreement. The Tribunal preferred KR’s evidence, noting inconsistencies in RT’s recollection and actions.

Regarding the alleged breach of contractual obligations by KR, the Tribunal found no conclusive evidence to support RT’s claims that she failed to provide necessary documentation, such as a valid driver’s license and criminal record check.

The adjudicator applied the principle that damages in breach of contract cases should aim to put the non-breaching party in the position they would have been had the contract been fulfilled. Estimating KR’s potential earnings had the contract continued, the Tribunal said she “likely would have earned around $3,500 to $4,000.”

RT returned to work for a former employer shortly after the contract ended, but did not provide any evidence as to how much she earned. As a result, the CRT reduced the award to $700 in damages, with an additional $34.74 in pre-judgment interest.

For more information, see Ross v. Trask, 2024 BCCRT 49 (CanLII).

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