Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fri, June 8, 2007
Don't teller to work OT

By LICIA CORBELLA


Class action suit targeting unpaid overtime could be huge



Back when I was a teenager one of the worst jobs I ever had was working as a cashier for a retail clothing company called Dalmy's, which eventually went bankrupt more than a decade ago. I tended to work Friday evenings and Saturdays until closing.

If the doors closed at 9 p.m., customers would often still be in the store trying things on. By the time they made their purchases it was often 9:10 or 9:15 p.m. Then, I'd have to balance the till and help the other staff clean up the store.

By the time we could all leave it would usually be about 9:45 to 9:50 p.m. Only problem was, we'd only get paid until 9 p.m.

Staying late

So, every night, this company, that was bankrupt in so many ways beyond its ultimate financial standing, got close to an hour of free labour from a handful of employees making slightly more than the minimum wage at our store alone.

I recall objecting to this objectionable practice with our manager, an imperious, petite diva of a woman with a voracious appetite for trendy clothes and a name that rhymed with lump (which led to no end of jokes by her abused staff.)

She looked over her bi-focals at me and in her Zsa Zsa Gabor way said something like, "If you don't like zee arrangement Dahlink, get anozza job."

Filing for overtime was not only not allowed, there was simply no provision made for doing it.

I knew what was happening to me and my colleagues was illegal but I didn't really know what to do about it.

Well, it looks like Dara Fresco has figured out what to do about it.

The Toronto teller with CIBC has launched a $600-million class-action lawsuit against her multi-billion-dollar profit making employer for the accumulated overtime she has performed but has not been paid for.

The 34-year-old woman, who earns just $30,715 annually, alleges she is owed about $50,000 in unpaid overtime for the two-and-a-half to 15 hours per week of extra work she says she has been tasked with doing since 1998.

"I've been working for the bank for almost 10 years and I figured enough is enough already," said Fresco at a news conference Tuesday, shortly after the lawsuit was filed in Ontario Superior Court.

My guess is, most Canadians are rooting for her, since most of us, at one time or another, were treated similarly.

Fresco's lawyer, Douglas Elliott, says this is "the largest unpaid overtime class action in Canadian legal history."

Incredible response

Louis Sokolov, another lawyer working on this case, says the response since Tuesday's press conference has been "incredible."

"We're hearing from a great number of employees," he said.

"After almost 10 years of employment to be paid just $30,000 and on top of that to not be paid for one's overtime is appalling," Sokolov added yesterday from his Toronto office with Sack Goldblatt Mitchell.

Sokolov says studies show many Canadian employers frequently violate federal labour laws by not paying staff time-and-a-half for working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

As a result, employees from Canada's four other big banks are already seeking advice, though for now, anyway, the lawsuit will focus exclusively on CIBC.

What's ironic about how big banks treat their employees, is they rake in billions for doing virtually nothing and then refuse to pay employees who are legitimately working.

It's likely that this potentially precedent-setting case could force bully corporations to treat their employees with fairness in the future.

And all because Dara Fresco did what so many of us failed to do in the past.

You go, girl!