Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
Quality Brand Products Corporation, a producer of cooking oils, has been convicted on 24 counts of failure to obey orders to pay wages to employees. The total amount of unpaid wages amounted to approximately $32,000 and wages owing to individual workers varied from between $100 to $4,500.
Between April 2014 and February 2016, Employment Standards Officers (ESO’s) issued a number of orders requiring Quality Brand Products to pay wages owing to workers. The company failed to comply with any of these orders.
The Employment Standards Act and Unpaid Wages
As we’ve previously blogged about, 2016 was a record year for unpaid wages in Ontario, with the province’s Ministry of Labour intensifying its focus on enforcement of employment standards, including through the prosecution of employers that owe outstanding wages. In 2016, there were 122 convictions for non-compliance with employment obligations, as compared to 70 in 2015, and 8 in 2014.
Under the Employment Standards Act, if an ESO finds that an employer owes wages to a worker, that ESO can order the employer to pay the amount owing. Any employer who subsequently fails to comply with that order is guilty of an offence.
What Can I Do If My Employer Owes Me Wages?
If you are an employee and your employer is withholding your wages, or not paying you, there are a number of actions you can take, including making a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, or suing your employer. Importantly, you cannot do both. There are pros and cons to each of these wage recovery options. Consulting with a knowledgeable employment lawyer can help you understand your options, and decide which one may be best for you and your specific situation.
Consequences for Quality Brand Products
By the time this matter went to trial in early March 2017, Quality Brand Products had still not paid any of the outstanding wags. Justice of the Peace Brihmi found the company guilty and imposed a fine of $72,000, which included the $32,000 owing to workers, and a $50,000 fine for failure to comply with multiple orders. The court also imposed an additional 25% victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
The company could have been fined up to $100,000 for the failure to comply with orders (and if they fail to comply with additional orders in the future, can face fines up to $250,00 for a second conviction, and $500,000 for a third or further conviction).