Court of Appeal

Employment Standards Award Does not Bar Court Action

An employee who is awarded unpaid wages by the Employment Standards Branch is not precluded from also claiming damages in court for wrongful dismissal, the B.C. Court of Appeal recently held. The decision overturns a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court.

The employee filed a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch following his dismissal. The Branch issued a determination that the employee was entitled to unpaid wages, commissions and vacation pay. The employee then began an action in Supreme Court for breach of his employment contract, which had a term providing an entitlement to 24 months’ pay on termination.

The trial judge dismissed his claim under Section 82 of the Employment Standards Act, which bars a court action to recover “wages” if the Branch has issued a determination requiring the payment of “wages”.

Overturning the lower court decision, the Court of Appeal held that a claim for damages for breach of a contract of employment is not a claim for “wages”, as that word is defined by the Act. Accordingly, Section 82 did not prevent the employee from pursuing his contractual claim in court. The Court awarded 24 months’ pay to the plaintiff.


(Click here for link to judgment)