A few days ago, the Toronto Star reported that a group of about 50 immigrant workers have claimed their employer, a Chinese restaurant chain paid them below minimum wage and owed them $300,000 in salaries and benefits.

Most of the workers say they worked at or below minimum wage, often for more than 50 hours per week without overtime pay.  Two of the workers claim they haven’t been paid at all since August.

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) sets out the minimum standards that employers and employees must follow in Ontario.

The reality is that many small businesses and employers are less-than-familiar with the ESA and the laws that regulate employment in Ontario, and are often unsure of their obligations regarding wages, maximum work hours, and workplace health and safety.

Employers and employees in immigrant communities are usually even more unfamiliar with the employment standards laws and regulations.  Many employers run their business, unaware of their legal workplace obligations and employees continue to work, unaware of their rights.

While certain exemptions do exist and employees are often classified in different ways, basically all employees in Ontario are entitled to some sort of employment standards protections.

The Ministry of Labour website provides considerable information about the obligations and rights in an employment relationship.  The best way to understand how the ESA applies to your specific situation is to speak with a qualified professional.

As an employee, if you feel your employer is not fulfilling its obligations, you should contact a lawyer about it.

As an employer, it would be wise to recognize that ESA compliance is serious.  In an effort to protect your business and avoid the risks of expensive legal procedures and Ministry penalties and orders, it is important to ensure that you understand an employer’s obligations under the ESA and implement policies and practices in your business that comply with these legal obligations.

Compliance with the ESA is crucial, and we encourage our clients – employers or employees – to contact us to better understand the various rights and obligations.

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Disclaimer: this post is intended for educational and non-commercial purposes only and is not intended to be a source of legal advice to any person in respect of any particular legal issue; it does not create a solicitor-client relationship with any readers.  If you have a legal issue or possible legal issue, please contact us.
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