April 12, 2024

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CRT rules on ‘low value’ dispute over $51 work uniform

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A company that took its former employee to B.C.’s small claims tribunal over a $51 unreturned uniform has lost its case.


Simple Moves North Shore Movers Inc. took former employee Thomas Robert Cummings to the Civil Resolution Tribunal, the province’s online tribunal for claims under $5,000, seeking $51.10 for the cost of replacing Cummings’ uniform.


Filing a small claims case with the CRT typically costs at least $75. 


In response to the company’s claim, Cummings told the tribunal the uniforms were in poor condition, and that the company’s manager told him to keep his, rather than returning it.


Tribunal vice chair Andrea Ritchie ruled on the case in a brief decision published online Tuesday.


The decision calls attention to its own brevity early on, citing “this dispute’s low value and limited evidence” as reasons for keeping the decision short.


According to the decision, Cummings was provided with two T-shirts and a sweatshirt during his employment.


“The parties’ employment relationship ended, for reasons that are not before me, and the applicant asked the respondent to return the uniform,” the decision reads.


“The respondent initially agreed to return the items, but the parties ultimately could not agree on how the uniform would be returned. In one of the last text messages between the parties, the applicant’s manager, N, told the respondent ‘don’t worry about it’ and ‘if it’s that important to you then you keep them,’ referring to the uniform.”


The company told the tribunal that N “only said that out of frustration” and that the company’s owner had “repealed” N’s statement, according to the decision.


Ritchie noted that “the law of gifts” – under which, once a person gives a gift, the gift cannot be revoked – applied in the case.


To win the case, Cummings had to prove that the company intended the uniform to be a gift, and that he had accepted said gift. Ritchie concluded he had done so.


“I am satisfied that N, acting as agent for the applicant, gifted the uniform to the respondent,” the decision reads.


“Whether it was out of frustration or not, I find the text message is unambiguous in that it said the respondent could keep the uniform. Because I find the applicant’s employee gifted the uniform to the respondent, the applicant’s owner cannot then revoke the gift or make the respondent pay for it. On that basis, I dismiss the applicant’s claim.”


As it was unsuccessful in the case, the company also had its claim for reimbursement of tribunal fees dismissed. 

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