Aldergrove Subway owner fined thousands for wage violations after provincial investigation

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Reporter Neetu Garcha has details on how much a Subway owner in Aldergrove has had to pay following an investigation by the Employment Standards Branch – Jan 24, 2019

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.

READ MORE: ‘Nobody speaks, because everyone needs the job’: Aldergrove Subway workers’ shocking allegations

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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.

Speaking generally, Gillman said cases of vulnerable employees who may not know their rights or who may be too afraid to speak out is rampant across many industries and he’s calling for change.
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“We’re hoping the NDP’s announcing of sweeping changes to the ESA will address some of these issues,” Gillman 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

Click to play video: 'Concerning allegations from employees of two Subway locations in Aldergrove' Concerning allegations from employees of two Subway locations in Aldergrove
Concerning allegations from employees of two Subway locations in Aldergrove – Jul 27, 2018

At the time, the B.C. Federation of Labour had said it is all too familiar with these kinds of problems.

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“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.

READ MORE: Subway Aldergrove allegations prompt growing calls for changes to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act

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. 

Click to play video: 'Subway Aldergrove allegations prompt growing calls for changes to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act' Subway Aldergrove allegations prompt growing calls for changes to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act
Subway Aldergrove allegations prompt growing calls for changes to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act – Aug 11, 2018

READ MORE: Subway Aldergrove whistle-blowers sound the alarm over alleged immigration violations

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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

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Aldergrove Subway allegations – Aug 24, 2018

“But the capstone, hopefully introduced later this year, will be legislative changes to the Employment Standards Act.”

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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.

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