Two Lower Mainland Subway restaurants have been fined thousands of dollars after an investigation by B.C.’s Employment Standards Branch (ESB) turned up wage-related violations.
The owner also had to retroactively pay 18 of the employees.
The province confirms the business owner of two Subways in Aldergrove — one which appears to be closed for construction at this time — had to pay around $12,000.
About $7,000 was back pay for outstanding wages and $5,000 was in administrative penalties under the Employment Standards Act (ESA).
The Ministry of Labour said the penalties collected will go to general revenue of the province.
The province said the Subway owner had a number of contraventions of the Employment Standards Act including payment of wages on termination, employment deemed continuous while on leave and premium pay for working a stat holiday.
In a statement, the ESB said in part:
“The investigation completed by the Employment Standards Branch resulted in the business owner paying all outstanding wages to the workers.”
“Additionally, the owner of the Subway restaurant paid $2,500 in administrative penalties for each of its locations. The business, which remains open, is also now subject to escalating penalties under the Employment Standards Act if there are further wage issues at either workplace.”
If the same contraventions occur again within three years, the owner will be fined $2,500 per contravention. If a complaint or future audit turns up another violation within three years of a second contravention, the fine would be $10,000 per violation, according to the province.
“The payment or the retroactive pay can only go back six months, so what’s the penalty for someone who violates someone’s rights for five years? You’re looking at… a very minimal result,” Stephen Gillman, an employment lawyer not directly involved in this case, said.
The investigations into the Subways in Aldergrove began after Global News spoke to six current and former staff last summer, with two saying they were so fed up they quit and one who alleged wrongful dismissal.
Their accusations ranged from apparent food-safety violations like alleged tampering with best-before dates, poor working conditions, bullying from their boss and being refused proper pay.
Pay stubs they presented to Global News showed overtime and stat holidays were paid at the minimum-wage rate instead of time-and-a-half.
WATCH: (Aired July 27, 2018) Whistleblowers allege Aldergrove Subway refusing overtime, tampering with best-before dates
At the time, the B.C. Federation of Labour had said it is all too familiar with these kinds of problems.
“This kind of thing happens all the time and isn’t often paid attention to and because these are folks who really don’t have a voice,” Aaron Ekman, secretary-treasurer, said.
The owner of the businesses previously told Global News she feels she did nothing wrong and directed any further media inquiries to Subway corporate, which later launched its own investigation.
Subway said the owner co-operated fully and said they found no food-safety issues, adding they were waiting for the Ministry of Labour to complete its probe before taking further action.
When asked about the fines, Subway Corporate said it could not provide comment in time for our publication deadline.
Fraser Health said it still has not received any formal complaints about either franchise but conducted multiple inspections which did not turn up any food safety violations.
WATCH: (Aired Aug. 11, 2018) Allegations at two Subways in Aldergrove have prompted immediate investigation.
Meanwhile, the province says it’s important to file a formal complaint with the ESB as soon as possible if something happens at work because if a complaint isn’t received within six months of something occurring or within six months of termination, the employee is essentially out of luck.
B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains told Global News, in a statement, transforming the Employment Standards Branch continues to be a key priority.
“We’re currently piloting a multi-lingual phone line so that people can access information in over 100 languages, Bains said, adding the employment standards website is also being updated to include new tools and educational materials in multiple languages.
WATCH: (Aired Aug. 24, 2018) A Global News investigation leads to Subway employees getting backpay
“But the capstone, hopefully introduced later this year, will be legislative changes to the Employment Standards Act.”
Bains said a report by the B.C. Law Institute highlights recommendations on how to update the province’s employment standards.
The province has also heard from workers, employers and advocacy groups.
“Combining the input and feedback from all of these, we are now reflecting on potential changes and working to bring forward priority amendments soon — as part of our plan for a broader update that will consider recommendations on all parts of the Act,” Bains said.