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Kelowna contractor ordered to pay $90k in unpaid wages to temporary foreign workers

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The employment standards tribunal has ordered a Kelowna contractor to pay more than $90,000 to three temporary foreign workers. Jules Knox reports. – Dec 29, 2020

A Kelowna-based construction business has been ordered to dish out more than $90,000 in unpaid wages to three former employees hired under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

The three workers were hired by Everlasting Stucco in 2018 as stucco plasterers and were listed on the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) issued by Service Canada as prospective employees of Harkanwaldeep Singh, according to an appeal decision from the B.C. Employment Standards Tribunal.

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The initial employment contracts were signed between Singh and each of the employees and contained the duration of the contract, a description of the job, wages, and other conditions.

In March 2018, the three employees were terminated from employment under the sole proprietorship and hired by a corporate entity- operating under the same name- but with significantly different labour terms.

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The workers were subject to a wage reduction of $10 per hour, and no overtime or statutory holiday pay, according to the tribunal documents.

Everlasting Stucco said each of the employees voluntarily agreed to the changes in their terms of employment, but the trio said they did not complain “for fear of jeopardizing their immigration status.”

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The employment of the three workers was terminated in June 2019, although it is unclear why.

They filed a complaint afterward alleging the business contravened the Employment Standards Act (ESA) by failing to pay wages for all hours worked, overtime, annual vacation, and statutory holiday pay.

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The original labour tribunal ruling found the company had contravened the act and ordered Everlasting Stucco to pay the complainants wages in the amount of $90,648.10, and to pay administrative penalties in the amount of $2,500.00.

The total amount of the determination is $93,148.10.

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Everlasting Stucco acknowledged it had failed to maintain accurate payroll records and the director accepted the records provided by the complainants, the appeal decision stated.

The company tried to appeal, alleging errors in law and failure to observe principles of natural justice, but the argument was rejected.

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The appeal panelist said the business that employed the workers was the same before and after the “transition.”

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“The employment of the complainants, and the terms and conditions of employment expressed in the LMIA employment contracts, was continuous and unaltered by the disposition,” said David Stevenson in his decision.

He added that the appeal has no merit and is dismissed.

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