Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blog Discontinued

We are writing to inform you that we are discontinuing this blog. We have chosen instead to focus our efforts on our Website, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

For more information about CALC please check out the following links:

CALC's Website:
CALC's Twitter Page:
CALC's Facebook Page:

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wage Theft Continues: Two Live-In Caregivers Owed Over $350,000 in Unpaid Wages and Wrongful Dismissal

The Worker's Action Centre has released a new video as part of its "Stop Wage Theft" Campaign in Ontario that was launched in May. The entire press release is available here.

Lilliane and Vivian worked as caregivers and faced unpaid wages, long hours and no overtime. They were forced to take court action to recover over $217,000 in unpaid wages and over $137,000 for wrongful dismissal. This is wage theft.

Recently, Lilliane and Vivian spoke out publicly against wage theft at and press conference. Their stories were featured in a front page Toronto Star article and in widespread media coverage. The Minister of Labour was forced to respond publicly.

Many caregivers give up their lives to care for other people's children and elderly or ill family members. And unfortunately, it's an all too common reality that they don't get paid for excess hours and other basic entitlements under the law. Through actions like Lilliane and Vivian's the Workers' Action Centre's campaign is building momentum. Click here to watch Lilliane and Vivian tell their stories about standing up against wage theft for all caregivers in the latest Stop Wage Theft Video.

Click here to read our past blog post about Lilliane and Vivian's story.

Go to the Workers' Action Centre.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Toronto mom with breast cancer wins EI case

A Toronto mother on maternity leave who was diagnosed with breast cancer but denied additional sickness benefits has won her appeal.

In what her lawyer says is a “precedent-setting case,” Natalya Rougas will receive the maximum 15 weeks of sickness benefits in addition to the 50 weeks of combined maternal/parental benefits she took after her son, Aris, was born in January 2009.

The sick benefit amounts to about $6,000, or $400 a week.

Read the full article at the Toronto Star.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Provincially Regulated Employees - Part 6: Have You Been Dismissed?

In this final component of our six-part blog series outlining the workplace rights and obligations for both federal and provincial employees, we look at the Employment Standards Act protections and procedures available for employees who have been terminated.

Dismissal/Termination of Employment
As a provincially regulated employee, you are entitled to written notice prior to your dismissal . The notice period required under the ESA is generally determined by how long you were employed.

For example, in Ontario, any employee with 1 year or less of service is entitled to at least 1 week of notice or payment in lieu of notice. You are not entitled to any notice if you were terminated during probation (less than 3 months). At least 2 weeks of notice or payment in lieu of notice must be given to employees with 1-3 years of service; at least 3 weeks for service between 3-4 years and so on up to at least 8 weeks of notice or payment in lieu of notice if the employee has served 8 years or more. If you did not receive the appropriate notice period prior to your termination, you are entitled to a lump sum payment equal to the regular wages for a regular work week that you would have otherwise been entitled to during the written notice period. You also earn vacation pay on your termination pay, and your employer must continue to make whatever contributions would be required to maintain your benefits that you would have been entitled to if you had continued to work through the notice period.

An online calculator is available here if you are interested in calculating how much termination pay you should have received from your Employer. Your employer must pay you your termination pay on the later of either seven days after your employment is terminated or on your next regular pay date.

In Ontario, if you worked for a business which had a payroll of over $2.5 million and you worked there for at least five years, you are also entitled to severance pay. An online calculator is available here if you are interested in finding out how much Severance Pay you are owed.

Importantly, even if your profession is listed under the ESA exemptions in Part 2 of this series, you are still entitled to the minimum termination. Only construction workers on buildings, sewers, pipelines, and tunnels cannot claim severance pay, and only construction employees involved in road building or working on sewers and watermains are prohibited from claiming both severance pay and termination notice and pay.

If you are guilty of willful misconduct, disobedience or willful neglect of duty that is not trivial and has not been condoned by the employer, or if you refused an offer of “reasonable alternative employment” by your former employer, you are not entitled to notice, termination pay or severance pay.

Filing an Employment Standards Claim
If you believe that your employer is not following the ESA, you should discuss the matter with your employer. There is also a self-help kit available on the Ministry of Labour website which can help you identify and resolve any problems you might have regarding unpaid wages, public holiday pay, overtime, minimum wage, termination notice or pay in lieu and severance pay. If you are unable to resolve the matter with your employer, you may file an Employment Standards Claim. You must complete a claim form, which you can obtain from the Ministry of Labour’s website, by mail or in person at a Service Ontario Centre.

If you are filing a claim because you did not receive reasonable notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice, you must file the claim within 6 months of the date your wages were due. It is free to file a claim, and the maximum amount of money that your former employer can be ordered to pay is $10,000.

Concluding Note
For more information on your rights and obligations as an employee in a provincially regulated industry, please contact your nearest Employment Standards Office at 1-800-531-5551. You can also visit the Employment Standards Office website.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Provincially Regulated Employees - Part 5: Your Basic Rights

Hours of Work
Under the Employment Standards Act, the maximum number of hours you can be required to work in a day is 8 hours, and the maximum per week is 48 hours. You and your employer can, however, agree in writing to work more than this. You must also receive at least 11 consecutive hours off work each day and if you are a shift worker, you must have at least 8 hours off work between shifts. This requirement doesn’t apply if the total time you would have worked on both shifts is less than 13 hours.

If you are a “homemaker” who has been hired by a third party to perform domestic services for a family in a private residence, you are not entitled to work (or be paid) for more than 12 hours per day.


You are entitled to a 30 minute meal break if you work five hours in a row, but this break is unpaid, is not considered “hours of work” and cannot be counted towards overtime. Your employer is not required to give you a coffee or cigarette breaks.

Overtime begins after you have worked 44 hours in a work week, and is calculated at one and half times your regular rate of pay.
Your employer can’t force you to work overtime, but you and your employer can agree to a longer week. Liquor servers, hotel, resort and restaurant employees must also work a minimum of 50 hours per week in order to qualify for overtime pay.

If you are a construction worker involved in “road building”, your overtime doesn’t begin until you have worked 50 hours, and if the road-building is on streets, parking lots or highways, you must work at least 55 hours to receive overtime pay. If you are a construction worker doing on-site road maintenance, you are also not entitled to overtime unless you have worked at least 55 hours per week.

Reporting Pay – the “Three Hour Rule”
When you are required to report to work for a shift that is three hours or longer, but you work fewer than three hours, you are entitled to the greater of a) three hours’ pay at Minimum Wage or b) your regular wage for the time worked. The “Three Hour Rule” does not apply if you are a student, or if you were scheduled to work fewer than three hours.

Statutory Holidays

Unless your occupation fell within the list of exemptions described in Part 4 of this blog series, you are entitled to take the 9 public holidays in Ontario off work and to be paid public holiday pay for each of these days. Your employer should calculate your public holiday pay, but for your own information, the amount is calculated by adding all the regular wages you earned in the four weeks before the work week with the public holiday, plus all the vacation pay owed to you with respect to those four work weeks, divided by 20. There is an online calculator available here.

If you agree in writing to work on the holiday, you should be paid either public holiday pay plus premium pay (one and one-half times your regular rate of pay) for the hours worked or your regular pay, and you can receive another day off (a “substitute” holiday) with holiday pay.

Sick Leave/Personal Emergency Leave
Unlike federal employees, who are entitled to sick leave under the Canada Labour Code, if you are a provincially regulated employee, you must rely on whatever sick policy your employer created and wrote into your employment contract. There are, however, “Personal Emergency Leave” provisions in the ESA, which, if there are 50 or more employees at your place of work, can provide you with up to 10 days off every calendar year if you are ill, or if a member of your family has a medical emergency. You may also take Personal Emergency Leave for pre-planned (elective) surgery, but it cannot be for unnecessary cosmetic surgery unrelated to an illness or injury. Furthermore, you may be eligible for Personal Emergency Leave because of an “urgent matter”. You must inform your employer before starting the leave that you will be taking the leave or, if you are unable to do this, you must inform your employer as soon as you can. You do not have to give notice in writing; oral notice is sufficient.

If a loved one becomes ill, you may apply for “Family Emergency Leave” which allows for all employees to apply for up to 8 weeks of time off to care for and to support a “family member” who is seriously ill. “Family member” includes your spouse, parent or child.

Maternity and Parental Leave

If you have worked for at least 13 weeks, you can take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave with benefits, so long as you provide your employer with two weeks’ written notice of your intention to leave. New parents who have worked for 13 weeks may take 35 weeks unpaid “parental leave”, and they may take 37 weeks if the mother did not take her maternity leave. Two weeks’ written notice to your employer is also required for parental leave. You may take both maternity and parental leave, and the period of maternity and parental leave is included when you calculate your length of employment, service and seniority. Your employer is not allowed to “punish” you for taking pregnancy or parental leave, and your employer must offer you, upon your return, the same job, or a comparable job with equivalent wages and benefits.

Final instalment – Part 6: Have You Been Dismissed?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Provincially Regulated Employees - Part 4: What Legislation Applies to You?

If your job did not fall under any of the “federally regulated” categories described in the first instalment of this six-part blog series educating workers about workplace rights and obligations, you are probably a “provincially regulated” employee, and the legislation which applies to you is the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). The ESA contains the minimum guarantees and protections for you as a worker in Ontario but it is important to note there are many occupations which are exempt from ESA protection or which have “special” applicable rules.

If your job falls in the list below, most provisions in Employment Standards Act do not apply to you, with the exception of minimum wage and the termination provisions, which are still applicable.

Managers and supervisors
Farm workers
Crown employees
Fire fighters, Paramedics
Taxi drivers
Hunting and Fishing guides
Salespersons on commission (who sell away from employer’s office, incl. real estate salespeople or brokers)
“Category 1 Professionals” and students in these professions (information technology, engineers, lawyers, accountants, surveyors, massage therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, doctors, psychologists and architects)

Minimum Wage
The General Minimum Wage in Ontario is $10.25 per hour but if you serve alcohol at a license establishment, you are entitled only to $8.90 per hour. The Student Minimum Wage, which applies to students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a work or less when school is in session, during a break or the summer, is $9.60 per hour.

Finally, if you are a “Homeworker” and you are paid to do work in your own home (i.e. word processing, telephone soliciting, sewing, manufacturing or who prepare food for resale), the Employment Standards Act guarantees you 110% of the General Minimum Wage or $11.28 per hour.

Next instalment – Part 5: Your Basic Rights

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Federally Regulated Employees - Part 3: Have You Been Dismissed?

In this final installment of the trilogy outlining your workplace rights and obligations as a federally regulated employee, we look at the Canada Labour Code provisions dealing with dismissal and termination. As a federally regulated employee, you can be terminated for just cause, without notice.

If, however, you are terminated without cause, your employer must provide you with two weeks written notice or two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice. Furthermore, if you have completed 1 year of continuous service and you were fired, you are also entitled to “Severance Pay” in the (greater of) two days of pay per year of service or five days’ pay. If you quit, you are not entitled to Severance Pay.

If you did not receive notice or your proper financial entitlement, and you meet the following four criteria, you have 90 days from the date of your dismissal to file a complaint to Labour Canada under Section 240 of the CLC for “unjust dismissal”.

· You were not a manager
· Your termination wasn’t due to a genuine redundancy or a discontinuance of your position.
· You worked continuously for more than 1 year.
· You were not a member of a union.

Potential remedies are broader than those available to provincial employees (who fall under the Employment Standards Act- see “Know Your Rights: Provincially Regulated Employees”) and include: lost wages and benefits since termination plus interest, reinstatement, legal costs, a letter of reference and/or “any other like thing that it is equitable to require the employer to do in order to remedy or counteract any consequence of the dismissal”.

Concluding Note
For more information on your rights and obligations as an employee in a federally regulated industry, please contact the nearest Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Labour Office at 1-800-641-4049.

You can also visit the HRSDC website:

Next instalment: Provincially Regulated Employees - Part 4: What Legislation Applies to You?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Federally Regulated Employees - Part 2: Your Basic Rights

Hours of Work
The Canada Labour Code defines a work day as 8 hours, and a work week as 40 hours per week. Hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week (“overtime”) should be paid at a rate of not less than one-half times the regular rate of pay, and you can’t be required to work more than 48 hours per week.

Reporting Pay
If you show up to work at the request of your employer, you are entitled to a minimum of 3 hours of regular pay, even if there is no work to perform.

Statutory Holidays
Under the CLC, you are entitled to 9 paid statutory holidays per year. If a holiday falls on your day off, you are still entitled to holiday pay. You and your employer can add a day to your annual vacation or your employer can grant you a holiday with pay on a mutually agreeable day. When New Year’s Day, Canada Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day or Boxing Day fall on a weekend day that is a non-working day, you are entitled to a holiday with pay on the work day that immediately precedes or follows the holiday. The next statutory holiday will be Canada Day.

Sick Leave
As a federally regulated employee, you are protected for absences not exceeding 12 weeks and you will be required to provide a medical certificate after you have returned to work. The CLC protects you against dismissal, demotion, layoff or suspension because of an absence due to illness or injury. If a loved one becomes ill, you may apply for “Compassionate Care Leave” which allows for all employees to apply for up to 8 weeks of time off to care for and to support a family member who is seriously ill.

Maternity and Parental Leave
You are entitled to up to 17 weeks of maternity leave if you have completed 6 consecutive months of continuous employment. You can take this leave any time during the period that begins 11 weeks before your expected date of delivery and ends 17 weeks after the actual delivery date. You must provide your employer with written notice of your intent to take your maternity leave at least four weeks prior to your maternity leave. You and your spouse are also entitled to a maximum of 37 weeks of “parental leave” which can be shared in any proportion, so long as the aggregate is less than 52 weeks. For example, a woman who has opted to take the entire 17 week entitlement of maternity leave may only claim a maximum of 35 weeks parental leave.

Next instalment - Part 3: Have You Been Dismissed?

Federally Regulated Employees - Part 1: What Legislation Applies to You?

Corinna Traill

With the Canadian Union of Postal Workers currently out on strike and the federal Air Canada employees legislated back to work last week, this is a good time to start thinking about your workplace rights. This is the first instalment of a six-part “Know Your Rights” blog series describing the workplace rights and obligations for both federally and provincially regulated employees.

First, you must first determine which legislation applies to ¬you.

If you work in an industry that falls into any of the following categories, then you are part of the 10% of Canadian workers who are “federally regulated” and whose workplace rights and obligations are described in the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”). Interestingly, Ontario has a higher portion of federally regulated employees (40%) than any other region in the country!

Federally regulated industries include:
• Banking (bank tellers)
• Telecommunications (telephone and cable companies, radio and television broadcasting)
• Canada Post
• Pipelines
• Air Transportation (airport and airline employees)
• Railway and Road Transportation (GO, CN and VIA Rail employees, truck drivers)
• Customs

Next instalment – Part 2: Your Basic Rights

Monday, May 30, 2011

Government pledges to help workers cheated by employers

Workers who have been victims of “wage theft” and other workplace mistreatment must not be afraid to come forward, Ontario Labour Minister Charles Sousa said Monday.

“I say this to those that are feeling intimidated: Call the ministry,” Sousa said in response to a report about two nannies who together are owed more than $200,000 in unpaid wages, overtime and holiday pay from their employers.

“We will react and we will ensure that their issues are covered and do everything in our power to protect them,” Sousa said.

Read the full story in the Toronto Star

Caregiver sues former employer, claiming $162,000 in lost wages

At 21, Lilliane Namukasa left Uganda to make a new life in Canada as a live-in caregiver for two small children.

But after working full-time for two years, she was paid just $2,100 by her Brampton employer and then fired without cause, forcing her into a homeless shelter, Namukasa says in a claim filed in Ontario Superior Court.

This is despite an employment contract that entitled Namukasa to receive approximately $22,000 a year, before taxes, minus $2,860 for room and board, she says in the claim.

Namukasa is seeking $162,000 for breach of contract and unpaid wages, statutory holiday pay and vacation pay. She is further claiming $33,000 for wrongful dismissal.

The allegations have not been proved in court.

The Workers’ Action Centre, a non-profit worker-based organization, says the case is one more example of wage theft faced by Ontario’s most vulnerable workers.

The centre, which is holding a Queen’s Park news conference Monday, is highlighting Namukasa’s plight and that of another live-in caregiver, as part of its campaign to beef up the province’s outdated Employment Standards Act.

“Workers should not be forced to take court action to recover unpaid wages, overtime and other employment standards entitlements,” says the centre’s coordinator Deena Ladd.

Read the article in the Toronto Star
Go to the Workers' Action Centre

Friday, May 13, 2011

Workers’ Action Centre Launches “Stop Wage Theft” Campaign

On Friday May 13th, 2011, the Workers’ Action Centre, worker-based organization committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people working in low-wage and unstable employment, will be launching its provincial “Stop Wage Theft” Campaign.

The campaign is directed at pressuring the government to protect workers by prohibiting employers from “stealing” wages through non-payment of regular or overtime wages, from charging fees for job training and from characterizing employees as “independent contractors” or “self employed” when, in fact, workers are employees of the particular employer!

Indeed, many companies, especially in the construction, cleaning and door-to-door sales industries, will falsely describe employees as “independent contractors” in order to deprive them of the many protections owed under Canadian labour legislation including minimum wage, overtime and Employment Insurance

This initiative by the Workers’ Action Centre is consistent with similar campaigns launched in the United States, where many states have, in response to public and political pressure to crack down on “bad employers”, enacted Wage Theft laws.

The Stop Wage Theft Campaign Calls on the Provincial Government to…
  • Make all employers follow the law in all workplaces
  • Update labour laws to protect all workers
  • Increase the minimum wage to bring workers out of poverty
  • Ensure equal status and protection for all workers regardless of immigration status
  • Fix Employment Insurance
You can get more information on the Workers’ Action Centre, obtain employment information - including free pamphlets outlining your workplace rights - and join the Stop Wage Theft Campaign.

If you wish to report an instance of “Wage Theft” in your workplace, call the WAC hotline at (416) 531-0778.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How what you do outside the office can get you fired

How you behave when you’re not at work has an impact, especially in these days of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And while your behaviour may not be as questionable as the Quebec teacher who was dismissed after it was discovered she moonlighted as a porn star, conduct outside the office can have negative results.

Employees who believe that their conduct away from the office is immune from discipline are mistaken, says workplace lawyer Daniel Lublin. “Behaviour unrelated to the workplace but which nonetheless injures an employer’s interests can amount to cause for dismissal,” he says.

Read more on the Toronto Star

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Decision Awards $200,000 to Wrongfully Dismissed Cancer Patient

The decision came out last month and Ms. Altman won a sweeping victory. The judge awarded her 22 months salary, a host of other payments and tacked on $55,000 in “moral” and punitive damages, bringing the total above $200,000. Steve's isn't appealing and a company official declined comment.

Click here to read the full article on the Globe and Mail

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Employee fired for cause still gets $25,000


In an unusual case, a court awarded a big chunk of cash to a man who was fired for being persistently late for work and making defective airplane parts. This decision highlights the difference in the common law and statutory definitions of "just cause" for termination.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Haines ruled that although Stephanus Oosterbosch was fired for good reasons, he was entitled to both termination and severance pay under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) of over $25,000 in total.

Click here to read more.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Migrant workers getting help

Local migrant workers could harvest some workplace improvements if an area legal agency has its way.

The Community Advocacy and Legal Clinic (CALC) has arranged with the Law Commission of Ontario to hold two consultations — one with service providers such as the Quinte United Immigrant Services and Hastings County Ontario Works and the other with vulnerable workers — to discuss the nuances of labour law and the enforcement of those laws might be improved to help workers who are vulnerable due to economic status, income level, gender, age and disability.

The closed consultation sessions began Wednesday. The sessions are aimed at providing input to the law commission to help tighten some sections and even loopholes in labour law as it pertains to vulnerable employees such as migrant workers.

Read the full story: Intelligencer

Read more about the Vulnerable Workers project from the Law Commission of Ontario

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ontario court rules personal files on work computers private

The Ontario Court of Appeal has recognized a right to privacy in the personal information Canadians store on work-issued computers.

In a 3-0 ruling Tuesday, the court said a Sudbury high school teacher charged with having nude photos of a Grade 10 student on a laptop issued by the school board had a right to expect his personal files on the computer’s hard drive would remain private.

Read the case R. v. Cole 2011 ONCA 218

See the full article on the Toronto Star

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Basics Webinar

This webinar gives community service providers an overview of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) structure and terminology. The webinar will cover the life cycle of a workers' compensation claim.

Click here to view and listen to the webinar on CLEONet.

If you cannot see the player you may need to upgrade to the latest Adobe Flash player.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Goar: Law Commission goes to bat for vulnerable workers.

Finally, someone is listening.

The Law Commission of Ontario wants to hear from workers in precarious, low-wage jobs, the temporary agencies who employ them, the businesses that use them, the advocates who speak out for them, the bureaucrats who are supposed to protect them and the public.

No one has done this before. The federal government has ignored the emergence of a large underclass of vulnerable workers (roughly 2.2 million Canadians). The province has plugged the worst holes in the Employment Standards Act, but only to mollify anti-poverty activists. Unions have watched helplessly as the rights they fought for have been rolled back. Businesses have been largely silent, not wanting to jeopardize a good bargain.

The Law Commission’s consultations run from now until April 1. The objective is to come up with a set of legal reforms and policy changes that would ameliorate the plight of vulnerable workers and bring the province’s employment law into the 21st century. The target date is April, 2012.

For more information on the Law Commission Report report on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work project please go to the Law Commission.

Read the full article on the Toronto Star.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Law Commission of Ontario Releases Consultation Paper on Vulnerable Workers in Ontario

Law Commission of Ontario Releases Consultation Paper on Vulnerable Workers in Ontario

The Law Commission of Ontario’s Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work Project reviews the nature of precarious work, the identity of vulnerable workers, the existing protections and enforcement mechanisms for people engaged in these forms of paid work and the impact of precarious work on the daily lives of vulnerable workers and their families.

The LCO has prepared a Consultation Paper and more detailed Background Paper to identify issues and potential areas of reform, and to provide a focal point for discussion and consultation. Some people may choose to read only the Consultation Paper which is a freestanding document. The LCO is interested in hearing from anyone with an interest in these issues, including workers, employers, academics, government and the public at large.

For more information please go to the Law Commission of Ontairo

2010-2011 Migrant Farm Worker Report Published

Report finds federal government complicit in Canada’s abuse of migrant farm workers

Canada’s most comprehensive annual report on the challenges facing migrant farm workers has been released. It confirms that abuse and exploitation of migrant farm workers are rampant in Canada’s agriculture industry.

The 2010-2011 Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada report is published by UFCW Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA). For more than two decades UFCW Canada has been a leading advocate for farm workers' rights, and in association with the AWA operates 10 agriculture worker support centres across Canada.

For the full report visit UFCW

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Salon Worker fired over headscarf, she says

A young Markham woman who works as an esthetician claims she was fired for wearing an Islamic headscarf because the salon “promotes hair.”

Mehwish Ali, a 22-year-old esthetician with Trade Secrets in Pickering, was fired Tuesday, a day after she says the co-owner told her the hijab was unacceptable.

“I was devastated when I heard that,” Ali told the Star. “I have worn the hijab for more than 10 years and never felt any kind of discrimination.”

The hijab, burqa and niqab, all Islamic gear worn by women, have been generally accepted in Canada but complaints like these are still common, said Jennifer Ramsay of Human Rights Legal Support Centre in Toronto.

“It’s unfortunate but we do get a lot of complaints,” said Ramsay. “It is perplexing.”

Read the full article on the Toronto Star.

Lear more about your Human Rights at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.