December 10, 2007 / 4:48 PM / 10 years ago

Scotiabank faces C$350 mln unpaid overtime suit

<p>The logo of Scotiabank is seen at a branch in Toronto November 9, 2007. A second lawsuit against a Canadian bank alleging unpaid overtime was launched on Monday, this time against Bank of Nova Scotia. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>

TORONTO (Reuters) - A second lawsuit against a Canadian bank alleging unpaid overtime was launched on Monday, this time against Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) for C$350 million ($346.5 million) in damages.

The suit alleges that thousands of current and former front-line workers at Scotiabank have been assigned heavier workloads than can be completed within their standard working hours.

It claims that the workload requires overtime, which the plaintiff alleges that the bank fails to pay.

“The problem with Scotiabank’s policy is ... nobody ever wants to authorize” overtime, said Cindy Fulawka, a personal banking representative and lead plaintiff in the case.

On a conference call, she said that if sales goals set out by the bank are not met by year-end, employees are denied salary increases and could face dismissal.

The class action suit against Canada’s third-biggest bank is expected to cover “several thousands” of non-management, non-unionized employees.

Scotiabank said it is confident employee policies have been applied fairly and consistently. “With specific reference to overtime, the bank’s policy is based on the Canada Labour Code,” it said in a statement.

The bank did not return calls seeking an interview.

In June, Toronto-based law firms Roy Elliot Kim O‘Connor LLP and Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP brought a similar suit against Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO), the country’s No. 5 bank, seeking C$600 million in damages.

The suit against CIBC, which is still in process and includes bank tellers, has been called the largest class action over unpaid overtime in Canada’s history.

In the United States, several banks -- including Morgan Stanley (MS.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Merrill Lynch & Co MER.N -- have agreed in the last couple of years to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle suits in connection with unpaid overtime for stockbrokers.

Lawyers said evidence from the Scotiabank suit, coupled with that of CIBC, suggests unpaid overtime may prove to be widespread in the financial services industry.

“When we started the action against CIBC, we did not think it was unique to CIBC,” said Bill Selnes, a member of the Canada-wide group of lawyers that filed the separate cases against the banks.

Scotiabank employees are entitled to time and a half pay for any hours logged beyond 37.5 hours a week. Under federal labor law, non-management employees must be paid overtime when employers require, or permit them, to work more than 40 hours a week.

The suit was filed to Ontario Superior Court of Justice and is expected to get certified for trial in the next year.

Scotiabank posted net income of C$939 million in its fourth quarter, ended October 31. Its stock was up 35 Canadian cents, or 0.7 percent, at C$52.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday afternoon.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Peter Galloway

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