Account executive at technology company, fired and disputes unpaid commissions. P went to Employment Standards Board, who left her out of the loop and communicated with the employer in the process.
Can an administrative procedure (e.g. Employment Standards Board) estop you in civil Court?
It can, but it’s up to Court’s discretion, as when the administrative agency’s procedure deprives P of justice.
• “The rules governing issue estoppel should not be mechanically applied. The underlying purpose is to balance the public interest in the finality of litigation with the public interest in ensuring that justice is done on the facts of a particular case”
- Definition of Issue Estoppel (McIntosh v Parent) “When a question is litigated, the judgment of the Court is a final determination as between the parties and their privies. Any right, question, or fact distinctly put in issue and directly determined by a Court of competent jurisdiction as a ground of recovery, or as an answer to a claim set up, cannot be re-tried in a subsequent suit between the same parties or their privies, though for a different cause of action. The right, question, or fact, once determined, must, as between them, be taken to be conclusively established so long as the judgment remains”
Step 1 Can Issue Estoppel Apply?
-Questions to decide: Angle, supra, at p. 254:
--(1) that the same question has been decided;
--(2) that the judicial decision which is said to create the estoppel was final; and,
---The employment standards Act stipulates that the review board's decision is final and binding (i.e. not open to judicial review)
---How do we determine whether the decision is final?
----1.Look at nature of administration (does it have authority to exercise judicial power)
----2.Is it a decision that was required to be made in a judicial manner
----3.Was the decision made in a judicial manner
-----These criteria are met even with the defects in process. To rule otherwise would undermine the rule about collateral attack.
--(3) that the parties to the judicial decision or their privies were the same persons as the parties to the proceedings in which the estoppel is raised or their privies.
Step 2 Ought Issue Estoppel to Apply?
-4.Court exercises judicial discretion: would invoking estoppel cause an injustice? Factors
--Words of the legislation: Does not affect civil remedy
--Purpose of legislation: meant to be a quick and cheap way to resolve dispute, not necessarily highest quality
--Availability of appeal: There is an opportunity for review, but not taking it here was not determinative
--Safeguards in admin procedure: Inadequate to deal with complex issues
--Expertise of administrative decision maker: No legal training
--Circumstances of giving rise to admin procedure: Plaintiff is in a vulnerable position, because the Act allowed agency to communicate with employer and she only gets a result
--look at potential outcomes: Never properly adjudicated
The Court ultimately concludes that it would be unjust to estop