In the Blog

Working overtime

June 6th, 2007     by Nicole Cohen     Comments

I love the way this story, from the Globe and Mail, starts:

Dara Fresco took a day off from her job as head teller at a Toronto branch of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Tuesday, dropped her toddler at daycare, and launched a $600-million class-action lawsuit against her employer.

Fresco, who has worked at CIBC as a teller and personal banker for 10 years, says the bank owes her about $50,000 in unpaid overtime. Her statement filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice claims the bank actively discourages employees from requesting payment for the overtime hours they are often required to work.

Apparently overtime is rampant in banking; one former employee told the Globe that branch managers personal bonuses are tied to the branchs profits, so they have an interest in keeping costs low.

This could be the biggest class action lawsuit in Canada, ever. It reminds me of Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores, the class-action suit filed against Wal-Mart in the U.S. to battle the chains poor gendered labour practices, including wage gaps, lack of advancement and training and sexual harassment.

According to the Globe, Statistics Canada reports that more than 1.6 million Canadians worked unpaid overtime in April. In Working On The Edge, a report by Torontos Workers Action Centre (disclosure: I helped research the report), documents the experiences of thousands of low-wage, immigrant workers in Ontario who are routinely not paid for overtime hours (or barely paid for their work hours), and the lack of protection offered to these workers by the labour law and regulatory agencies. In Ontario alone, over $100 million in workers’ wages went unpaid over the last five years, even though the Ministry Of Labour ordered employers to pay.

It probably took a lot of guts for Fresco to stand up to her employer. I hope this suit gets the attention it deserves and can encourage action in other sectors and workplaces.

Tags: activist report, on the job

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