The Workers’ Rights Division represents low-income, non-unionized workers with many different employment or work-related issues. We represent workers at various courts and tribunals:
- Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Labour Relations Board (unpaid wages, termination and severance pay, Employment Standards Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act reprisals)
- Small Claims Court (wrongful dismissals, unpaid wages, workplace human rights violations)
- Superior Court for exceptional cases (wrongful dismissals, unpaid wages, workplace human rights violations)
- Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (workplace human rights violations)
- Social Security Tribunal of Canada (Employment Insurance appeals, Canada Pension Plan-Disability appeals)
- Tax Court of Canada (Independent contractor/employee rulings)
- Canada Labour Arbitration (Canada Labour Code violations, unjust dismissal)
We are proud of our success. Since the summer of 2011, we represented more than 820 workers and provided summary legal advice to 3,300 further workers. In the last eight years, we have recovered more than $4 million in wages, wrongful dismissal damages, human rights compensation, and other employment entitlements.
Below is a small sample of our reported cases. We thank all the workers who fought for the rights of all workers and allowed us to tag along.
The claimant came to Canada from the Philippines and worked for the employers as a live-in caregiver for their adult child who has a severe disability. The claimant alleged that in addition to caregiving and housekeeping duties during the day, the employers also required her to be on-call overnight, ready to be awakened from her sleep if needed. The employers denied that the claimant was ever awakened from her sleep to take care of their child. Partly due a termination letter that the employers falsified, the Ontario Labour Relations Board found that the employers’ testimonies were not credible. The Board also determined that the claimant was entitled to be compensated for the overnight sleep hours as “there was no assurance that her sleep would not be disturbed”. The Board awarded the claimant $27,896.89.
The claimant worked as a cleaner in a group home located in Parkdale. The claimant, who had precarious immigration status, lived in the group home and received cash payments for her work. The claimant sought unpaid minimum wage, overtime pay, and public holiday pay. The employer argued that the claimant was not entitled to the amount sought because the Employment Standards Act exempts superintendent, janitor, or a caretaker of a residential building who resides in the building from being entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, and public holiday pay. In response, the claimant argued that the exemption does not apply to her because, among other reasons, the purpose of the exemption is to remove the burden from an employer of paying minimum wage, overtime pay, and public holiday pay to those employees over whose time the employer has little or no control. In her situation, however, the employer controlled her hours and monitored her work. The Ontario Labour Relations Board agreed with the claimant and found that she was not exempted from minimum wage, overtime pay, or public holiday pay.
Although the case is not noteworthy from a legal perspective, it is an excellent example of what workers encounter in the construction industry where subcontracting is the norm and not the exception. The claimant, who stained and varnished stairs in a new condominium building, was not paid for a significant amount of the work he preformed. The Ministry of Labour found that the employer owed $2,700.00 to the claimant. The employer appealed the decision to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, but the Board had no difficulty in determining that the employer’s appeal had no merit.
A sales clerk at a clothing retailer asked her employer if she could sit while performing certain tasks as she had a medical condition that caused her great pain if she stood for a prolonged period of time. Initially, the employer agreed to the simple accommodation request but later withdrew the accommodation and fired her. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that the employer fired the sales clerk due to her disability. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario awarded the worker $13,500.00 in general damages and $9,097.22 for lost income.
Hinic v. Classic POS Inc.,  OJ No 7099
The plaintiff, who worked as a programmer and customer support worker for the defendant, sued for unpaid wages and constructive dismissal damages. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was an independent contractor. The Court determined that the plaintiff was an employee because the defendant directed and controlled the plaintiff’s work. The Court awarded unpaid wages, vacation pay, and public holiday pay to the plaintiff.
Loggie v. Classic POS Inc.,  OJ No 7098
The plaintiff, who worked as an office assistant for the defendant, sued for unpaid wages and constructive dismissal damages. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was an independent contractor and relied on a written independent contractor agreement between the two parties. The Court agreed with the plaintiff that the subjective intent of the parties is not a determinative factor when assessing whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor. The Court awarded unpaid wages, vacation pay, public holiday pay, and constructive dismissal damages to the plaintiff.
An agricultural employer fired an injured worker after he files an Employment Standards Act claim. The Ontario Labour Relations Board ordered the employer to pay $26,786.09 as reprisal damages, which included a confirmation that pain and suffering awards are now higher.
Reco Cleaning Services subcontracted Gilmour Services, who then recruited workers to clean newly built condominium buildings. When Gilmour Services failed to pay the workers, fourteen of the workers filed Employment Standards Act claims, arguing that Reco Cleaning Services should be held liable for the unpaid wages. The Ministry of Labour found that the subcontractor, and not Reco Cleaning Services, was solely responsible for the wages. The victory was hollow for the workers as Gilmour Services did not have the financial capacity to pay. On the Application for Review, the Ontario Labour Relations Board agreed with the fourteen workers that Reco Cleaning Services was the true employer and imposed liability on it, the top contractor, rather than the subcontractor.
In finding that an employer dismissed a worker for filing an Employment Standards Act claim, the Ontario Labour Relations Board confirmed that if an employer’s decision to dismiss an employee is in any way tainted by the fact that the employee asserted his or her rights under the Employment Standards Act, then a reprisal has occurred.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal reversed the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s decision and granted the injured worker psychotraumatic disability entitlements and partial Loss-of-Earnings benefits.
A live-in caregiver/cleaner filed an Employment Standards Act claim for unpaid wages and termination pay. Citing a previous Parkdale Community Legal Services’ case, the Ontario Labour Relations Board confirmed that a worker who is required to remain in the place of employment must be paid regardless of whether the worker had active duties.
In a preliminary hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the applicant employee and the respondent employer disagreed as to when the final act of discrimination occurred, i.e. whether the discrimination occurred on the date the employee received notice of dismissal or on the date the dismissal is effective. In refusing to dismiss the application for delay, the Tribunal agreed with the applicant that the final act of discrimination occurs when a dismissal becomes effective.
Marin v. Zeitz,  OJ No 6457
In this case involving a live-in caregiver, the Court determined that it may make a negative inference against employers for their failure to keep a record of hours worked by their employee and for their failure to provide written pay statements. The Court awarded the live-in caregiver full wages sought.
Work v. Northwood Collection Inc.,  OJ No 2293
While quoting from a New Brunswick Court of Appeal decision about “class prejudice” in determining notice period, the Court awarded seven months’ pay to the plaintiff factory worker with seven years of service.
Employers of a live-in caregiver filed an Application for Review to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, arguing that they did not owe wages to the caregiver. In detail, the Board explained that work is deemed to be performed by a worker as long as the worker must hold her or himself at the place of employment.
Hill-LeClair v. Booth, 2009 HRTO 1629 (CanLII)
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario awarded $25,000 to the applicant who was subjected to sexual harassment.
The employer hired the worker to solicit people at shopping malls to apply for a credit card. The Ministry of Labour found that the worker was a commissioned salesperson who worked away from the employer’s place of business and thus exempt from minimum wage. The Ontario Labour Relations Board found the worker to be entitled to minimum wage, determining that the level of control the employer held over the worker made him a route salesperson.