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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

    How to Get Employment Standards Entitlements in Full

    Graeme Moore

    In this so called “New Era” in BC of undemocratic government, rolling back of rights and liberties, it becomes more important than ever to know what rights, if any, you do have left. Among the most dramatic and, according to labour and human rights activists, draconian legislative changes by the BC government has been to the Employment Standards Act, and the non-union workers it governs.

    If you are working under a corporate command structure and are not a union member and are experiencing difficulty, or you know someone who is in a similar situation, here are a few facts you need to know if you file a complaint.

    All too many employees are being pressured to take what their former employers offer as settlement of their claims to employment standards. Pressure, at mediation sessions conducted by the Employment Standards Branch, is on the parties to settle: for employees to take less than what they are owed because it is the quickest and easiest way to resolve their complaint.

    Adjudication of a complaint, unless the complaint is completely without merit, results in an automatic fine against the employer. Complainants should use that automatic fine to get what is owed to them without having their complaint adjudicated.

    Just Say No! How to get Employment Standards entitlements in full

    After trying self-help, if your employer or former employer does not pay you all the wages that you think you are owed, file a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch. It costs you nothing; you have nothing to lose, and the worst you can do is get nothing.

    After filing a complaint, the Employment Standards Branch will likely schedule a mediation session between you and your employer with the view of settling your complaint. At this session, you should insist on payment of in full all unpaid wages and entitlements. If the Branch says you are not owed the wages you claim to be owed, have the officer shown why your claim is wrong. If you claim to be owed overtime, for example, and your employer and the Branch say you are not owed it because you are a manager; have the officer show you why the work you did made you a manager. Besides, even if you were a manager, you may be owed wages - even managers are entitled to be paid all hours worked at regular pay.

    Do not settle for cents on the dollar when you are sure of your claim. You have the upper hand over your employer. If your employer cannot get you to settle your complaint, and take the money offered, the Branch will adjudicate your complaint. At adjudication, the Branch will formally determine the merits of your complaint.

    If the Branch finds your employer owes you wages, even if it is not the amount you claimed to be owed, your employer is fined! The fine is automatic. Any contravention of employment standards, even late payment of your final pay, triggers an automatic fine when the complaint is adjudicated.

    The fines are as follows:

    Monetary Penalties Effective November 30, 2002 penalties for employment standards violations are as follows:

    First violation: $500.

    Violation of the same section of the Act or Regulation at the same location within three years of the first violation: $2500.

    Violation of the same section of the Act or Regulation at the same location within three years of the second violation: $10,000.
    USE these fines to get paid what you are owed, in full and promptly! Going to adjudication adds at least $500.00 to what your employer has to pay! Treat the fine as an inducement for your employer to pay you what you are owed, in full and promptly.
    You do not have to settle. Do not sell yourself short. Do not leave your money on the table. Use the monetary penalties, the fines, to get your employer to pay you what you are owed. Only a foolish employer will take a losing case to adjudication. No smart employer wants to pay more than what actually has to be paid. When asked to settle, just say no! Insist on your complaint being adjudicated. Use the fine to pressure your employer to pay you what you are owed. $10,000 creates a lot of pressure. Use it to get what is lawfully yours for the asking. Get all that you are owed. With automatic monetary penalties you have what it takes to get your employer to pay you in full - use it!

    Graeme Moore Once program advisor to Employment Standards Branch, now employee advocat

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