Employment tribunal rejects appeal by Penticton Sikh Temple, ordered to pay former priest $42K | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Employment tribunal rejects appeal by Penticton Sikh Temple, ordered to pay former priest $42K

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Penticton Sikh Temple

A Penticton Sikh Temple will still have to pay back $42,000 to a former priest it fired several years ago after it lost its right to an appeal with the Employment Standards Tribunal.

The Penticton Sikh Temple and Indian Cultural Society argued the entire temple and its grounds were the former priest's residence and an earlier Tribunal decision which ruled the priest should have been paid for every hour he was at the temple was incorrect. The Sikh temple argued the amount of compensation awarded should be recalculated.

The case involves former priest Jasbir Singh who worked and lived at the temple from 2015 until he was fired in 2018. The decision does not give any reason why Singh was fired, but the Penticton Herald reported the priest then refused to leave and the temple filed a civil suit to have him removed. It appears the priest left before the courts got involved.

Following the firing, however, in November 2019 the Tribunal awarded Singh $42,162 and fined the temple $3,000 for breaking several aspects of the Employment Standards Act, including not paying minimum wage.

According to the April 8 decision, published this week, the Temple required Singh to work 16 hours a day starting at 4 a.m.

"One of those duties required (Singh) to never leave the temple unattended and to contact a Committee member if he wished to leave during open hours," reads the decision.

Singh got a 12-foot by 12-foot room to live in and prepared his meals in the Temple’s communal kitchen and used a shared washroom.

The Indian Cultural Society argued the temple was Singh's residence and he should not be paid for every hour he was at the temple. However, the Tribunal disagreed saying that Singh had no expectation of privacy in any part of the Temple during its opening hours, and during opening hours he was required to attend to the parishioners in the temple.

"He had no authority to exclude any of the parishioners from the Temple and no freedom to come and go from the temple at will if he was not working," reads the decision.

The Indian Cultural Society argues the temple and the grounds were Singh's residence, but the Tribunal says Singh could not use the entire temple as a person would typically use their home.

"As a place to hang one's hat, keep one's clothes, store treasures and family memories; as a place of retreat from the turmoil of the workplace; a place to entertain one's friends; and an address of one's own," reads the decision.

Ultimately the Tribunal dismissed the Penticton Sikh Temple's application to appeal stating they have not put forth any evidence to back up their claim and the temple was still on the hook for $45,162.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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