Increase to small claims limit: Employees more likely to sue?

The recent move to increase the small claims monetary limit from $30,000 to $50,000 will come into effect in Saskatchewan on April 1, 2024. The change is expected to impact all areas of law. In particular, employers may see an increase in wrongful termination claims.

Increased number of claims

The small claims process is intended to be a simpler, faster and more cost-effective alternative to Superior Court actions. The claim limit increase makes small claims even more accessible for many wrongful dismissal claimants, which raises a concern that more employees will pursue litigation. Employers should also be aware that, even if an employee is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, they may be able to waive their right to any damages above $50,000. Thus, allowing employees to still pursue their claim via Small Claims Court as opposed to the Court of King’s Bench.

Increased number of self-represented litigants

As noted above, Small Claims Court offers a simplified dispute resolution process when compared to the Superior Court process. As a result, Small Claims Court offers increased accessibility for employees to represent themselves, therefore reducing costs of litigation for the employee. There is significant information and support available for self-representation in Small Claims Court. The emphasis in small claims pleadings is on the facts of the matter, rather than procedural or legal technicalities. These reduced barriers render it more likely that employees will choose to bring an action and, moreover, will choose to self-represent in that action.

Effects on employer litigation strategy

Small claims proceedings do not involve a formal document disclosure requirement nor questioning. As the employer bears the onus of proving the employee has failed to mitigate their damages, this burden could be difficult to meet where an employer lacks the ability to assess the employee’s evidence, particularly with respect to mitigation. This will necessitate a change in employer litigation strategies.

Labour Update

For more on this change, as well as on other employment litigation considerations, such as pre-litigation and litigation strategy tips, how summary judgment applications are impacting wrongful dismissal claims, and key settlement considers, please attend our Saskatchewan Labour Update 2024 in Regina, Saskatoon or Virtual.

Information on all upcoming labour events put on by MLT Aikins can be found here.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.