Toonie Trouble


The toonie turns 20 today! On February 19, 1996 the bi-metallic coin featuring Churchill the bear made its debut. Fun fact: before the public settled on the name ‘toonie’, other nickname suggestions included the ‘bearie’ (mimicking the loonie’s name) and the ‘doubloonie’ (as its value is double that of a loonie). With an expected lifespan 20 times greater than that of the original two dollar bill, the toonie was created simply to save the country several million dollars a year.  As an added bonus, the multi-ply plated steel technology employed during the production of the coin makes it more difficult to create counterfeit toonies.

Of the 883 million toonies that have entered circulation since 1996, a few have been the subject of legal arguments.

The theft of a single toonie can get you fired. Management at a Tim Hortons location in Ontario were worried that some staff members were stealing from the store during the night shift, so they used video surveillance to monitor the conduct of these employees. While conducting this surveillance, the manager became concerned that a different employee was depositing only some of the  money that they received from customers into the cash register and that they were stealing the rest. Action was taken and the staff member was charged with theft, but was later acquitted. The employee then went on to advance several actions against the Tim Hortons location, some of which included malicious prosecution and wrongful dismissal. However, the judge did not rule in her favour. She appealed the decisions all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, with each appeal being dismissed. The employee argued that the criminal theft allegation was for a single occurrence of theft of a single toonie, later referred to as the “toonie incident”.

Toonies are commonly offered as tips to individuals providing a service, but not all employers allow their employees to accept these gestures of appreciation. In 2014, an employee at a gas bar in Alberta received a toonie from a customer as a tip. Company policy mandated that employees should refuse tips. However, if the customer insisted, they could accept the tip only if they immediately turned it over to a manager or a supervisor. The employee failed to hand over the two dollar coin and was relieved from his job. The employee filed a grievance, stating that he failed to recall receiving the tip in the first place. The grievance was granted and the employee was reinstated.

With the birth of the toonie came the creation of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s ‘Toonie Tuesday’. While lovers of fried chicken rejoiced over the two dollar deal, some employees were not as enthused. One KFC employee in Ontario sought entitlement to benefits for bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, which she alleged was due to activities performed during the course of her employment. The employee referenced having to sometimes work 11-hour days due to the store being extremely busy on Toonie Tuesday.  It was found that the injury did result from the nature of her job duties and she was provided with benefits.

On the east coast, a KFC employee in Newfoundland and Labrador filed a grievance stating that she was not offered an overtime shift on Toonie Tuesday, causing her to lose out on potential overtime compensation. The employee alleged that an overtime shift was not offered to employees in order of seniority and that another employee below her on the seniority list was offered the shift instead. The store manager took that position that she asked the employee if she wanted the overtime shift, and the employee responded that “if it was any other shift she would gladly take it, and that she would not leave [the manager] stuck if she did not find anyone else.” The store manager took the reply to mean that she could move on to the next employee. The arbitrator denied the grievance, as it was reasonably probable that the store manager approached the employees in order of seniority.