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B.C. trucking company goes after 3 former drivers for 'time theft,' loses every case

Several transport trucks are seen in a CTV News file image. Several transport trucks are seen in a CTV News file image.

A trucking company from B.C.'s Lower Mainland that accused three former drivers of "time theft" cannot claw wages back from any of them, the province's small claims tribunal has decided.

Sandhar Trucking Ltd. sought a combined total of $13,616 from Jaskaran Singh, Harjinder Gill and Gurmeet Sandhu in separate complaints to the Civil Resolution Tribunal, alleging each driver padded the hours on their timesheets.

For their part, Singh, Gill and Sandhu all countered that their former employer was retaliating against them for overtime complaints they had filed with the province's Employment Standards Branch.

Tribunal member Micah Carmody, in a trio of decisions posted online Thursday, does not address the retaliation claims in detail, but dismisses Sandhar Trucking's complaints against all three men.

In each case, Carmody wrote, the company "failed to establish" that the drivers had over-reported their hours, "intentionally or otherwise."

There has been controversy around the concept of time theft – particularly after some companies began using monitoring technology to track productivity among remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic – but at its most basic level, time theft is defined as an employee being paid without working.

To successfully claim time theft, Carmody wrote, a company must establish that a worker "breached the terms of their employment contract to report their hours worked honestly and with reasonable accuracy," as well as the amount the worker was overpaid.

Sandhar Trucking didn't manage to do so in any of the three cases, the tribunal member found.

The company alleged its former drivers lied about starting earlier and finishing later than they actually did, which it calculated using data from Samsara, a GPS tracking system installed in its trucks that records when the engines are turned on or off.

Sandhar compared those times to the hours Singh, Gill and Sandhu had marked on their timesheets and looked for discrepancies, claiming that the GPS data verifies "when a driver starts and ends their shifts," according to the decisions.

"I disagree," Carmody wrote in each of the cases. "A driver's shift does not start when the driver starts the engine, and it does not finish when the driver turns off the engine. The driver must report to the yard, receive and review their delivery assignments, plan their route and conduct a pre-trip inspection."

Sandhar Trucking told the tribunal it began reviewing Gill and Sandhu's hours after they resigned over disputes with the company, and not because they had filed overtime complaints. Carmody said he could not, based on the evidence presented, determine the truth of the matter, but noted that “nothing turns on this” either way.

Singh's situation was different. The trucking company said it fired him for forging a doctor's note, and that it reviewed his hours over concerns about dishonesty.

The driver acknowledged the forgery – telling the tribunal he had trouble getting a doctor's appointment while sick, and had to satisfy the company's "demand for a note to excuse his absence" – but still claimed his overtime complaint with the Employment Standards Branch was behind the company's investigation.

Carmody accepted that single incident of dishonesty was "at least part of the reason" Sandhar began scrutinizing Singh's timesheets, but said it did not sway his decision.

Ultimately, the tribunal member found each employee's timesheets – which he said would previously have been reviewed by at least one Sandhar employee prior to being paid out – offered the best indication of the hours they worked.

In the Singh case, Carmody noted the company never claimed its policy was "simply to accept the hours stated on the timesheets without any scrutiny."

He dismissed all three of Sandhar Trucking's claims.

In a fourth decision, also posted Thursday, Carmody dismissed a similar allegation of time theft totalling $1,473 that Aaron Trucking Ltd. filed against Sandhu.

The driver argued that claim was also filed in retaliation for his same overtime complaint against Sandhar Trucking, describing Aaron Trucking as a "sister company." Top Stories

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