B.C. court rules temporary foreign workers can sue Denny's

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has given more than 70 Temporary Foreign Workers the go-ahead to proceed with their class-action suit against the company that operates Denny’s restaurants in British Columbia. The workers, who were or continue to be employed at Denny's locations in B.C., are suing for $10 million in damages. The workers allege Denny's failed to provide the amount of work, overtime, and reimbursement of expenses the workers were promised when they were recruited before they left the Philippines for Canada.

Northland Properties Corporation, which operates Denny's locations in B.C., tried to block the suit. But in a written decision, Madame Justice Fitzpatrick of the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that, “A class proceeding will substantially advance this litigation in terms of an overall resolution of the common issues which addresses the need for judicial economy in its approach. In addition, recognizing the vulnerable situation in which these temporary workers find themselves, a class proceeding will provide the access to justice that they require in an environment that will be of assistance to them.”

Following the filing of the class action application in January 2011, Northland conceded it failed to provide the workers the air fare reimbursement they were promised. And this past June, Northland was charged and convicted of neglecting to pay required overtime, in spite of the pending lawsuit and repeated investigations and warnings by the Employment Standards Branch.

"It is not just Northland that ignored the rights of the Denny's workers. The Harper government is just as complicit for choosing to turn a blind eye to the epidemic exploitation under its Temporary Foreign Workers program," says Naveen Mehta, the human rights and equity director for UFCW Canada. "While it is positive that Madame Justice Fitzpatrick has seen the merits of allowing this suit to proceed, no worker should have to turn to the courts to have their basic human and labour rights respected."