Vancouver tech startup, Istuary, ordered to pay millions in unpaid wages

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The provincial government confirms the owners of Istuary Innovation Group owe $2.9 million in unpaid wages. Nadia Stewart has more on how the province plans on recovering all that money – Oct 19, 2017

A Vancouver tech company has been ordered by the province’s Employment Standards Branch to pay $2.9 million in unpaid wages, Global News has learned.

Istuary Innovation Group has been under investigation since late June when over 120 employees complained they hadn’t been paid. Employees told Global News the unpaid wages began accumulating in May.

The Employment Standards Branch says it issued a decision on Oct. 13, determining the company owed $2.9 million in wages. Investigators reviewed payroll records from December 2016 through August 2017.

READ MORE: Employees at Vancouver tech startup say they haven’t been paid in months

“It’s actually a positive step for us that the government is finally doing something,” Elaine Li, a former Istuary employee, says. “It’s a positive first step, but it’s still frustrating that we’ve not been paid yet.”

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Li says she and others were left with no choice but to go on Employment Insurance once they stopped receiving regular paycheques from Istuary. She’s still looking for work, doubting she’ll ever receive the money owed to her.

“I try to stay optimistic about it, but also try to stay realistic about it,” she says.

READ MORE: Vancouver tech start up, Istuary, accused of mishandling documents

Manivannan Gajendran, another former employee, is also doubtful.

“I don’t have any hope that the company will pay up because the company doesn’t have money,” he says.

The company now has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Employment Standards Tribunal. If no appeal is filed, the province will proceed to collect the wages. According to the ministry of Employment, Business and Economic Development’s website, unpaid wages are a lien against the property of the employer. The branch can also try to recover money through third parties.

At any time, the branch’s decision could also be filed in Supreme Court and enforced as a judgment of the court. In addition to seizing company assets, Istuary’s directors or officers could also be personally liable for up to two months of unpaid wages if they were in office when the wages were earned or payable.

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The company says it’s still marketing itself to investors, despite earlier emails pointing to cash flow problems stemming from “a significant acquisition” that saw its financial resources “frozen.”

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