Personal bankers, financial advisors and other employees at the Bank of Nova Scotia could be paid as much as $95 million for unpaid overtime as part of a settlement deal in a class-action lawsuit.
The agreement, approved by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice during a brief hearing in Toronto on Tuesday, would cover thousands of workers for more than a decade of unpaid overtime.
The deal is “a remarkable and incredibly sensible settlement,” Justice Edward Belobaba told the court.
“We are confident that the bank’s employee policies have been applied fairly and consistently,” Scotiabank, as the bank is known, said in an emailed statement.
“We have always made it clear that when employees work overtime we will pay them for their work or provide time in lieu and today’s decision reinforces that commitment,”
The lawsuit includes approximately 16,000 Scotiabank employees across Canada who worked as personal banking officers, senior personal banking officers, financial advisors, and small business account managers from Jan. 1, 2000 to Dec. 1, 2013.
Class members say that overtime was often required, they couldn’t always get approval in advance, plaintiffs’ counsel David O’Connor of Roy O’Connor said in an interview. “For example, if someone comes in five minutes before 5 o’clock and wants to arrange a mortgage, you can’t kick them out when the bank closes.”
Others said that they worked unpaid overtime to meet their sales targets, added co-counsel Louis Sokolov of Sotos LLP.
The deadline for claims is Oct. 15. The bank will evaluate the submissions, taking into account that most people won’t have documentation, O’Connor said. Employees would receive 1.5 times their standard wage at the time, but no interest.
Class members who are not satisfied with the bank’s decision on a claim may appeal to an independent arbitrator.
It will take several months to determine the total value of the claims.
O’Connor estimates that figure could reach $95 million. “The bank asserts that is too high but it was the best estimate we could come up with,” he said.
Scotiabank said previously that the payout would not be financially material.
The deal stipulates that the plaintiff in the case, Cindy Fulawka, a Scotiabank personal banker in Saskatchewan, will receive a $15,000 honorarium in addition to her unpaid overtime.
“When this all began, my lawyers did warn that this would be a long and difficult road. Here we are six and half years later and I believe we have achieved something significant,” Fulawka said in an emailed statement.
“Many people felt we could never make a real difference. Deep down I felt we could.”
Scotiabank will also pay legal fees of $10.45 million in the case.
“Litigating against the chartered banks in this country is not a task for the faint of heart. These are among the most powerful, well-resourced corporations in Canada,” Sokolov said. “The nature of these cases went to the very heart of their employment practices and they fought back vigorously as we would expected they would.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2007, along with a similar class-action filed by CIBC bank teller Dara Fresco of Toronto. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said previously that it intends to go to trial.