• Employer Mistakes in Alberta Standards Case Emphasize Importance of Documentation
  • February 27, 2015 | Author: Christopher Dormer
  • Law Firm: Davis LLP - Calgary Office
  • On September 26, 2014, in Gar-don Steel Industries Ltd. v Griffith, 2014 CanLII 61389, the Alberta Employment Standards Umpire heard an appeal of an unreported decision issued by an Employment Standards Officer issued on April 22, 2014, that resulted in an order requiring the employer, Gar-don Steel Industries Ltd. (“Gar-don Steel”), to pay $6,177.58 in overtime and $617.79 in costs to an employee, Mr. Jeff Griffith (the “Order”).

    In the appeal, Mr. Griffith argued to maintain the Order awarding the overtime pay, as did the Director of Employment Standards, while Gar-Don Steel claimed the overtime pay had in fact been paid.

    Case Background

    Gar-don Steel had employed Mr. Griffith from January 30, 2012, to May 5, 2013, at a pay rate of $28 per hour. On March 1, 2012, a new employment contract had been presented to and signed by Mr. Griffith which outlined that he would be paid $86,944 a year based on a 50 hour work week, with an overtime rate of $44 per hour.

    Ultimately, Gar-don Steel was successful in its appeal and the Order was set aside. The Alberta Employment Standards Umpire found that Mr. Griffith had been fully paid for the overtime he had worked.

    This decision is noteworthy because of the reasons why an appeal was required at all:

    1. It appears that Gar-don Steel did not provide a copy of the new employment contract to the Employment Standards Officer in response to Mr. Griffith’s complaint.
    2. The new employment contract did not clearly set out Mr. Griffith’s hourly rate, rather, it only referenced his annual rate of pay and an overtime rate.
    3. Gar-don Steel had not accurately recorded the overtime paid to Mr. Griffith under the new employment contract. As such, Mr. Griffith’s argument that his rate of pay was $39 an hour, therefore leaving him underpaid for his worked overtime, was successful in the first instance.

    After having the benefit of reviewing the new employment contract, the Alberta Employment Standards Umpire concluded that the yearly amount was comprised of a guaranteed combination of both regular and overtime pay, at a minimum of 50 hours per week, and only when Mr. Griffith worked more than 50 hours per week would he receive the $44 per hour in additional overtime pay. As such, the Umpire found the employer did not have to pay $6,177.98 as set in the Order.

    However, the Alberta Employment Standards Umpire agreed that Gar-Don Steel failed to sufficiently record the payment of overtime pursuant to the Alberta Employment Standards Code, and maintained the costs awarded against Gar-Don Steel in the Order.

    Employers Should Ensure Employment Contracts are Clear and Records are Accurate

    While the Alberta Employment Standards Umpire agreed with Gar-don Steel’s interpretation of the new employment contract, clear language with respect to compensation would have likely avoided an appeal. It is also clear the appeal of the Order would not have been necessary if Gar-don Steel had accurately recorded the overtime hours worked by Mr. Griffith.

    Similarly, this decision illustrates the importance of providing a detailed and complete response to a complaint made by an employee. In this instance, it appears the Employment Standards Officer had no evidence to contradict Mr. Griffith’s position, and therefore originally decided in his favour based on the limited evidence present.