TORONTO - Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) denied allegations Tuesday of a systemic problem with the way the bank logs and pays overtime, arguing that an Ontario court should not allow a class action lawsuit over allegedly unpaid work to go ahead.
And even if some employees do have legitimate claims for overtime, their experience varies, indicating that the issue isn't consistent across the major bank's operations, bank lawyer Robert Armstrong said during a hearing at which a group of employees is seeking class-action certification for their suit.
During the second day of hearings, Armstrong told the judge he needs to consider "is this a credible situation I'm being asked to certify? You are not a rubber stamp."
Cindy Fulawka is the lead plaintiff representing about 5,000 employees working as personal or senior bankers, financial advisers and account managers for small businesses at the bank's retail operations.
Scotiabank, the country's most international bank, has more than 69,000 employees and operations across Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Fulawka, who has worked for the bank since 1986 but is currently on medical leave, claims the bank was loose with its record keeping when it came to extra work hours, resulting in employees working extra time they weren't being paid for.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
On Monday Fulawka's lawyer, Louis Sokolov, told the court that Scotiabank has a duty to record and monitor all of the hours worked by its employees, and compensate them properly.
However, in documents filed with the court, Scotiabank said evidence shows that each employees claim is unique and would require an individual investigation and consideration.
"There is no evidence that a significant number of unresolved claims actually exist," the document from the bank's lawyers said.
"The plaintiff has only provided the accounts of six individuals. The validity of these claims has not been admitted by Scotiabank."
Armstrong described Scotiabank's operations as diverse in size and location, noting they serve both rural and urban communities. He questioned suggestions that a broad number of those locations could have incorrectly logged overtime.
"Even employees working in the same branch with the same manager, including employees holding the same job, have materially different experiences with respect to hours of work and overtime," a document filed by the bank's lawyers said.
Armstrong said those reasons show that each claim should be handled by the bank on a case-by-case basis.
"Scotiabank acknowledges that its branches do not always work perfectly," the documents said.
"In recognition of the possible need for overtime compensation, Scotiabank has had, for many years, and overtime policy and internal employee-complain systems."
Armstrong told the judge that Scotiabank has been unfairly targeted by a team of lawyers who are also involved in a similar case against CIBC that is under appeal.
He said the judge needs to consider whether the claims are a "credible situation" or "if is this a law firm seeking to move forward."
In June, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed a similar suit filed by a teller against CIBC (TSX:CM) alleging unpaid overtime to its customer service staff.
The judge in that case decided it didn't meet the test of a class action suit because each employee would have an individual claim that lacked commonality with the others.