Posts Tagged ‘employee’

Shafik Bhalloo
Tuesday, August 6th, 2013    Posted by Shafik Bhalloo (posts)
Shafik Bhalloo
Shafik Bhalloo has been a partner of Kornfeld LLP since 2000. His practice is focused on labour and employment law, and on commercial and civil litigation. He is also an Adjudicator on the Employment Standards Tribunal and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University.

Limiting Common Law Notice in Employment Contracts

By Shafik Bhalloo and Devin Lucas

It is settled law in Canada that an employer may displace an employee’s right under the common law to reasonable notice of termination by contracting to a lesser notice or severance entitlement. However, the notice or severance period must meet the statutory notice requirements outlined in the applicable provincial employment standards legislation; otherwise it will be of no effect. In British Columbia for instance, Section 4 of the Employment Standards Act provides that the requirements of the Act are minimum requirements and any agreement to waive those requirements has no effect In Machtinger v. HOJ Industries Ltd.[1], where the employer had contracted to give its employees notice or severance below the minimum provided in the Ontario Employment Standards Act, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the provision null and void for all purposes and held that the provision could not be used to interpret the parties’ intentions with respect to notice entitlement upon termination. The Court then went on to conclude that the employees were entitled to reasonable notice because the presumption of reasonable notice was not rebutted. In so concluding, the Court reasoned that such a conclusion was consistent with the legislative intent of the Act which expressly preserved the civil remedies otherwise available to an employee against his or her employer and provided employers an incentive to comply with the minimum statutory provisions of the Act. Not only must the notice provision comply with the minimum applicable employment standards legislation, it must be drafted carefully if the employer is to successfully limit the common law notice. In British Columbia, in McLennan v. Apollo Forest Products Ltd.[2], the province’s Supreme Court considered a wrongful dismissal action brought by Marvin McLennan, a former “bin chaser” at a sawmill.  Part of Mr. McLennan’s employment contract was contained in an employee handbook.  The handbook contained the following termination provision:

The terms and conditions of employment at Apollo Forest Products Ltd. are in accordance with the Employment Standards Act and other legislation of the Province of British Columbia governing the Employer/Employee relationship in the workplace.

Upon being dismissed, Mr. McLennan brought a wrongful dismissal action against his employer arguing that he was entitled to common law severance pay.  In response, the employer argued that the two weeks’ pay that was provided as severance pay pursuant to the Employment Standards Act[3] was adequate.  The B.C. Supreme Court held that the express provisions of the contract did not restrict the notice to the minimum set out in the Employment Standards Act; therefore, making it necessary and appropriate for the Court to determine the reasonable notice period to which the employee was entitled at common law.

McLennan provides support for the proposition that an employment contract, which incorporates provisions of employment standards legislation by reference, will not be sufficient to provide the clarity of intention required to rebut the presumption that reasonable notice in accordance with the common law applies.  In order to do so, the contract would have to go further and clearly limit the reasonable notice period to the applicable statutory legislation.

Recommendations for Employers

It is recommended that employers, when attempting to limit common law notice or severance, do not violate the minimum provincial employment standards legislation. Where the employer is trying to limit the notice to the minimum in the employment standards legislation, it is recommended that the employer draft the limiting clause in very clear and unambiguous terms limiting to such statutory notice or payment in lieu of notice.

[1] [1992] 1 S.C.R. 986

[2] 1993 CarswellBC 1250.

[3] R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 113.

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Shafik Bhalloo
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012    Posted by Shafik Bhalloo (posts)
Shafik Bhalloo
Shafik Bhalloo has been a partner of Kornfeld LLP since 2000. His practice is focused on labour and employment law, and on commercial and civil litigation. He is also an Adjudicator on the Employment Standards Tribunal and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University.

*By Devin Lucas and Shafik Bhalloo

In Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP v. British Columbia (Human Rights Tribunal)[1], the equity partner, John Michael McCormick, entered into a partnership agreement with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, an international law firm operating as an extra-provincial limited liability partnership registered pursuant to the Partnership Act of British Columbia. Under this agreement, which governs the relationship of all of Fasken’s partners, McCormick was required to retire as an equity partner on January 31, 2011, the financial year end of the firm in which he turned 65.

The partnership agreement provided at section 9.2:

(a) Each Equity Partner shall retire as an Equity Partner at the end of the Year in which the Partner reaches the age of 65, but as provided in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this Section 9.2 may be permitted to continue working with the Firm.

(b) A Partner who retires from the Firm shall be deemed to have withdrawn from the Firm as at the date of his or her retirement, which date shall be his or her date of withdrawal.

(c) Upon reaching the age of 62, each Partner shall prepare and deliver to the Firm Managing Partner a practice transition plan.

(d) Agreements for working past age 65 are at the discretion of the firm Managing Partner and will be the exception rather than the rule. The criteria for approval shall include the value of the individual in coaching, business development, client relations, mentoring and community profile. Such agreements shall either be approved by the Board or be within any written policy established by the Board for this purpose.

(e) Partners who wish to continue in the practice of law with the Firm after age 65 may enter into an individual arrangement with the Firm as an employee or a Regular Partner as determined by the Firm Managing Partner and, if the Firm Managing Partner so decides, such individual may have the title of “Counsel” to the Firm. The Firm Managing Partner may at any time on three months’ prior written notice revoke, in his or her discretion, the right of such individual to continue in the practice of law with the Firm, whether as employee or Regular Partner, or to be Counsel to the Firm.

In December 2009, McCormick filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal alleging that Fasken discriminated against him by forcing his retirement as an equity partner in 2011, contrary to s. 13 of the Human Rights Code of British Columbia.

In response, Fasken brought an application to dismiss the complaint pursuant to ss. 27(1)(a) and (c) of the Code, on the basis that that the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the complaint and there was no reasonable prospect that it would succeed.  The root of Fasken’s argument was that McCormick was not an employee of the firm and there was no employment relationship that could be the subject of a complaint under s. 13.

The Tribunal ruled against Fasken stating that it had jurisdiction over the complaint on the ground that the firm, for the purpose of the Code, employed McCormick.  According to the Tribunal, in the context of human rights legislation, a partnership may be considered as a separate legal entity from its partners and as the employer of a partner.

Fasken appealed the decision to the British Columbia Supreme Court claiming that the Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to hear the complaint, since in law a partnership is not a separate entity from its partners, and cannot in law employ a partner.  The chambers judge upheld the Tribunal’s ruling. The chambers judge held that that the governance and management system of the firm met the criteria of an employment relationship for purposes of the Code, applying factors of “utilization”, “control”, “financial burden” and “remedial purpose” as held in Crane v. British Columbia (Ministry of Health Services).[2]

Once again, Fasken appealed the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal in reversing the Tribunal and chamber’s judge decisions stated:

…the principles of interpretation of the Human Rights Code, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210, which mandate a broad, liberal approach consistent with its remedial purposes, do not change underlying legal relationships to the extent found by the Tribunal and the chambers judge.  In particular, they do not extend to overriding the fundamental and well-established principle of law that a partnership is not, in law, a separate entity from, but is a collective of, its partners, and as such, cannot, in law, be an employer of a partner.

The Court of Appeal also observed that a partnership may employ other persons and, in those employment relationships, it normally makes no legal or commercial difference whether the partnership is seen as a separate body or a collective of the partners.  According to the Court of Appeal, third parties, including employees of the partnership, are generally entitled to the same rights and obligations as against a partnership as they are against a corporation or a proprietorship, including protection from discriminatory employment practices. The court then drew the distinction between that of an employer-employee relationship and the relationship among all of the partners.  The Court said:

In this case, one of the supposed parties to the relationship, the firm, while a “person” for the purpose of the Code, is not separate from any individual equity partner such as Mr. McCormick.  The only relationship that exists, in law and in fact, is among Mr. McCormick and all of the other partners of the firm. And the relationship among them cannot be one of employer and employee, as they are all equal in their rights and obligations with respect to the business of the firm.

It is important to note that McCormick was one of approximately 60 full-equity partners at Fasken. McCormick has an ownership interest in the firm; therefore, he is entitled to a share of the profits of the firm and is personally liable for its debts. Further, he is permitted to participate in the meetings of the partners and to vote on various issues affecting the firm’s management. Conversely, employees do not enjoy any of these rights or obligations.

It remains to be seen, however, whether or not a partnership would be considered as a legal entity distinct from its non-equity partners for the purposes of human rights legislation?  If a partnership may be treated as a separate legal entity from its non-equity partners, does it then follow that a non-equity partner is an employee of a partnership, which purportedly, he or she is a member?  Applying the factual criteria of “utilization”, “control”, “financial burden”, or “remedial purpose” from Crane would appear to affect equity partners differently than non-equity partners.  The crux of this distinction is whether the controls exercised by the firm’s management apply equally to all of the partners.  If the controls are applied differently based on whether a partner is an equity or non-equity partner, it stands to reason that this would vary the relationship from one of partners collectively running a business to one of employment by equity partners over non-equity partners.  This is still an open question at this point; however, it is an interesting issue that could have wide-ranging implications for partnerships and non-equity partners reaching the age of mandatory retirement.

[1] 2012 BCCA 313


[2] 2005 BCHRT 361, rev’d on other grounds, 2007 BCSC 460.

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Shafik Bhalloo
Wednesday, September 19th, 2012    Posted by Shafik Bhalloo (posts)
Shafik Bhalloo
Shafik Bhalloo has been a partner of Kornfeld LLP since 2000. His practice is focused on labour and employment law, and on commercial and civil litigation. He is also an Adjudicator on the Employment Standards Tribunal and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University.


When a manager is not a manager: Employers beware of liability for overtime or extra pay

                                                                        By Shafik Bhalloo*


Section of the British Columbia Employment Standards Act (the “Act”) delineates overtime wage requirements for employees who work over 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week.  It states:

40. (1) An employer must pay an employee who works over 8 hours a day, and is not working under an averaging agreement under section 37,

(a) 1 1/2 times the employee’s regular wage for the time over 8 hours, and

(b) double the employee’s regular wage for any time over 12 hours.

(2) An employer must pay an employee who works over 40 hours a week, and is not working under an averaging agreement under section 37, 1 1/2 times the employee’s regular wage for the time over 40 hours.

(3) For the purpose of calculating weekly overtime under subsection (2), only the first 8 hours worked by an employee in each day are counted, no matter how long the employee works on any day of the week.

However, section 40 of Act does not apply to employees who are “managers” as Section 34(f) of the Employment Standards Regulation (the “Regulation”) specifically excludes managers (and some other categories of employees) from hours of work and overtime requirements.  It states:


34. Part 4 of the Act does not apply to any of the following:

(f) a manager;

Having said this, simply calling an employee a “manager” will not exempt her from overtime compensation under Section 40 of the Act.  It is not the job title but the job duties that determine whether or not the employee is exempt from overtime compensation under the Act.  Section 1(1) of the Regulation provides an exclusive definition of  “manager” as follows:

1. (1) “manager” means

(a) a person whose principal employment responsibilities consist of supervising or directing, or both supervising and directing, human or other resources, or

(b) a person employed in an executive capacity;

In 429485 B.C. Limited Operating Amelia Street Bistro (“Amelia Street Bistro”)[1] the Employment Standards Tribunal considered several previous cases of the Tribunal on the definition of “manager” and concluded as follows:

The task of determining if a person is a manager must address the definition of manager in the Regulation….Typically, a manager has a power of independent action, autonomy and discretion; he or she has the authority to make final decisions, not simply recommendations, relating to supervising and directing employees or to the conduct of the business.  Making final judgments about such matters as hiring, firing, disciplining, authorizing overtime, time off or leaves of absence, calling employees in to work or laying them off, altering work processes, establishing or altering work schedules and training employees is typical of the responsibility and discretion accorded a manager.  We do not say that the employee must have a responsibility and discretion about all of these matters.  It is a question of degree, keeping in mind the object is to reach a conclusion about whether the employee has and is exercising a power and authority typical of a manager.  It is not sufficient simply to say a person has that authority.  It must be shown to have been exercised by that person.

If you are an employee hired in a “managerial” or “executive” position, you should examine your day-to-day duties and determine whether your primary job duties are supervisory or managerial  in character – do you have authority to make final decisions?  Do you supervise and direct employees?  Do you hire and fire employees?  Do you discipline employees?  Do you have discretion and authority to independently set or change employees’ schedules and make decisions to call in or layoff employees?  If your primary job duties includes some or most of these tasks, you may be a manager but if your primary duties do not include these tasks or if you rarely or irregularly perform these tasks, you may not be a manager within the meaning of the Regulation.  In such case, you may be entitled to overtime pay for any extra hours you work over and above 8 in a day and 40 in a week.

If, however, you satisfy the definition of “manager” in the Regulation, is your employer exempt from paying you any additonal pay for extra hours worked?  The Tribunal, in a few cases, has indicated that some managers can claim pay at “straight time” rates for extra hours worked[2] – that is, beyond 8 hours daily or beyond 40 hours weekly, if working those extra hours was not an agreed term of your employment relationship or included in your base pay.

If you are an employer desiring to curtail your exposure to pay extra to your manager for any additional hours of work, then you should consider have a binding employment contract in place that specifically addresses this issue.  More particularly, you want an employment contract that clearly specifies that the manager is expected to work in excess of 8 hours in a day and 40 hours in a week and that the manager’s base salary includes or is intended as compensation for all hours worked.

[1] BC EST #D479/97

[2] Re Fort St. John, BC EST # D265/03

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Shafik Bhalloo
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011    Posted by Shafik Bhalloo (posts)
Shafik Bhalloo
Shafik Bhalloo has been a partner of Kornfeld LLP since 2000. His practice is focused on labour and employment law, and on commercial and civil litigation. He is also an Adjudicator on the Employment Standards Tribunal and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University.

The Employment Standards Act (“the Act”) delineates the minimum standards that apply in most workplaces in British Columbia. It governs the employment of all employees -casual, probationary or temporary- within provincial jurisdiction, whether employed in a full time or part time capacity.

The Act will not apply where the employee is a person excluded from the provisions of the Act under Employment Standards Regulation (“the Regulation”) such as doctors, lawyers, architects and others whose professions are specifically regulated by provincial legislation. Also other non-professionals, under specific circumstances, are excluded from the application of the Act. These include, but are not limited to, persons engaged in government sponsored work programs, sitters, and newspaper carriers.

The Act also does not apply to employees whose work falls within federal jurisdiction such as banking, defence, interprovincial or international transportation, interprovincial and international shipping, air transport as well as employment with the federal government and crown corporations.

If you are or have been a director or officer of a corporation within provincial jurisdiction, it is important that you understand your potential exposure under section 96 of the Act. Section 96(1) states:


Corporate officer’s liability for unpaid wages

96 (1) A person who was a director or officer of a corporation at the time wages of an employee of the corporation were earned or should have been paid is personally liable for up to 2 months’ unpaid wages for each employee.


Under section 96(1) each director or officer of the corporate employer is liable personally to pay up to a maximum of two months’ wages for each employee, even where more than two months’ wages is owed.

This section only comes into play where the employee successfully lodges a complaint under the Act against her corporate employer for the latter’s failure to pay her wages and the Director of Employment Standards issues a determination against the employer which determination is not satisfied by the employer. In such case, the Director of Employment Standards will employ section 96(1) to issue a determination against one or more directors or officers of the corporate employer to obtain payment of wages owed to the employee by the corporate employer.

The director or officer, to be liable under section 96(1), must have been a director or officer of the corporate employer, at the time the wages were earned or should have been paid by the corporate employer.

It is also important to note that where there is more than one director or officer, nothing in section 96(1) or in any other section of the Act requires the Director of Employment Standards to apportion, pro-rate or divide the liability for wages owed to the employee between the directors or officers[1].

Where the employee is owed more than two months’ wages, the Director of Employment Standards may issue a determination against each director and officer of the corporate employer for two months wages. Just because one of the Director’s or officer’s pays the employee two months’ wages under a section 96 determination does not extinguish or discharge the liability of other directors and officers under their section 96 determinations, since the employee is still owed wages. In such case, since the Director of Employment Standards is not required to collect equally from all directors and officers, he may collect from the other directors or officers only that which is necessary to pay the balance of wages outstanding and no more. For example, if the employee is owed 3 months’ wages, once the director has collected from the first director 2 months’ wages, he may only collect one additional month’s wages from the second director.

What constitutes wages for the purpose of section 96? Wages, under section 96, refers to normal wages including applicable vacation pay. It does not include length of service, termination pay or money payable in relation to individual or group terminations, if the corporation is in receivership.[2]

Directors and officers are also not personally liable for (i) wages of an employee if the corporate employer is subject to action under section 427 of the Bank Act (Canada) or to a proceeding under an insolvency Act[3], (ii) vacation pay that becomes payable to an employee after they cease to hold office[4], or (iii) money that remains in an employee’s time bank after they cease to hold office[5].

Pursuant to section 45 of the Regulation, directors and officers of charities are exempt from the liability created in section 96 of the Act, if they only receive reasonable out-of-pocket expenses and no other remuneration for services performed for the charity. If you are not such a director or officer and section 96 of the Act applies to you, you may want to ask the corporate employer whose Board you are serving on if they have a directors and officers “error and omissions” insurance that sufficiently protects you from such liability.  Such enquiry is advisable in advance of getting on the Board of any corporate employer.



[1] Rajinder Brad, a Director or Officer of Skynet Travel Inc., BC EST #D056/07

[2] Section 96(2)(a) of the Act

[3] Section 96(2)(b) of the Act. Section 1 of the Act defines insolvency Act” to mean “Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Canada), the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (Canada) or the Winding-up and Restructuring Act (Canada)”


[4] Section 96(2)(c) of the Act

[5] Section 96(2)(d) of the Act

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