Skip to content

In the Courts: B.C. firm loses battle over lunch, overtime costs

Primex argued in appeal to B.C. Supreme Court that the provincial court failed to heed its arguments of overbilling by the plaintiffs
The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

A B.C. company has lost its appeal of a court order to pay the amount it owed to a contractor based on its own calculations.

Primex Industries Inc., which manufactures and distributes building panelling, contracted a subsidiary of Tatras Contracting Group Ltd. to install panels on a property in 2018, according to a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision.

The B.C. Supreme Court case came as an appeal from an earlier provincial court decision that ordered Primex to pay $15,157 to Tatras, including the amount owed for time worked, and for service and filing fees.

Primex had calculated the amount owing to be $14,783 in an October 2020 email to Tatras.

But Primex said the lower court failed to account for its argument that it was over-billed by $22,688.

That included 110.5 hours of overtime that Primex sought to not pay at all, while Tatras agreed to reduce to the regular rate. Primex also argued Tatras charged for travelling time and only subtracted half an hour for lunch breaks instead of an hour.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Carla Forth, however, found no error in the lower court’s decision, noting Primex hadn’t shown that the overtime hours weren’t worked or that the company was billing for travelling time, and ordered the $15,157 held by the court to be paid out to Tatras.

Tatras provided installation services to Primex until September 2020, according to the decision.

In all, Tatras issued invoices originally of $37,958 and $9,017 in July and August of 2020. Those figures included 82 and 18.5 hours each of overtime.

After Primex raised the lack of deductions for lunch breaks, Tatras’s invoices were amended to account for half-hour unpaid breaks. The company issued another invoice in October of that year for $6,668, including 10 hours of overtime.

Primex paid $30,000 towards the invoices but further took issue with the practice of rounding timestamps up by the nearest 15 minutes for employees clocking in or out.

Its representative, Gregory Palamarz, wrote an email to Tatras in October 2020 to say it was subtracting all overtime hours from the invoices.

Palamarz told Tatras chief financial officer Daniel Franco in the email that the total owing was $14,783, which became $6,262 with a statutory lien holdback.

Palamarz further argued against Tatras’s practice of rounding up timestamps for employees clocking in or out. Palamarz said that only applied to when employees were late – for instance, if an employee arrived at 8:01 a.m., he said the clock would start at 8:15 a.m. – and that the practice was “for [the] benefit of [the] employer, not employ[ee].”

Palamarz then accused Tatras of deliberate fraud in overbilling for lunch breaks.

In response, Tatras changed the billing to exact minutes and calculated the total outstanding amount to be $20,622.

Tatras employees testified that lunch breaks were, in fact, usually an hour long, and so the trial judge found Tatras’s claim to $20,600 was not proven and instead landed on the amount calculated by Palamarz in October, at $14,783, plus filing and service fees.