Frustrated law student fights test centre

By Rhia Perkins

A University of Calgary Law student is considering legal action against an LSAT preparation company she claims failed to pay her.

Erika Ringseis claims the International Test Pre-paration Centre, which provides preparation for LSAT’s, GRE’s and other standardized exams, did not pay her for teaching and private tutoring, citing a breach of contract.

ITPC General Manager Doyle Raglon admitted there is an issue with Ringseis, but declined further comment.

"I do have a dispute with this contractor, and from my point of view, it is a company issue," he said.

Richard Jones, Chairperson of Civil Litigation, Calgary, Canadian Bar Association noted a typical breach of contract involves an individual who does not have the funds or knowledge to pursue the matter.

"When they know that a particular individual is very vulnerable there’s almost an incentive to [deceive an employee]. [But] she’s well versed in small claims court. If she was someone who did not have knowledge of the legal system, it might be different."

Ringseis was hired as a contractor in late summer of 2000. Ringseis was informed she’d be teaching LSAT review courses and doing private tutoring. Her first class was cancelled due to insufficient enrollment.

"I ended up still tutoring the one guy," said Ringseis. "It finished and, about two weeks after I was done, they sent me a cheque and it covered the cost."

In October, Ringseis taught the next prep class and again tutored one student privately.

"I naturally just assumed that I was going to be paid the way I was before," said Ringseis.

Ringseis claimed when she was still unpaid three weeks later, Raglon told her that she should have received post-dated cheques with her teaching materials, and that she had not correctly recorded her hours.

"He was very abrupt and rude with me," Ringseis said. "I had no idea that I was supposed to get post-dated cheques."

Ringseis sent another employee an e-mail with her hours, and asked that she be sent a procedures manual for the company before the start of the next class.

In an e-mail dated Dec. 12, Raglon stated Ringseis was overreacting. He also terminated her contract.

"I am taken aback by the tone of your e-mail," he wrote. "It seems an extreme reaction to what is simply a misunderstanding. When you were hired, I’m sure I reviewed our payment policy, as I do with every instructor."

In the second week of January, a still-unpaid Ringseis contacted the ITPC office. She claims an employee promised to make payment by midweek. However, she has not received a cheque.

Raglon told her he placed a stop payment on the cheques since she still owed the company some keys.

Ringseis then sent Raglon a letter stating the amount of money for which she was willing to settle.

This letter said her contract didn’t state the return of materials as a condition for payment. It stipulated that if Raglon faxed a letter stating that he would pay her, she would immediately return the items.

"I received no response from that at all," said Ringseis.

If Ringseis chooses to pursue litigation, the case will go to provincial small claims court.

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