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Bosses who broke law haven't learned their lesson, labour ministry blitz finds
Once burned, twice shy. So goes the age-old adage. But according to the Ministry of Labour's latest inspection blitz, it doesn’t always apply to bosses breaking workplace laws.
Almost three-quarters of employers with a "history of non-compliance" — the targets of the ministry's latest round of inspections — were revealed to be still violating employment standards, according to a detailed breakdown of the investigations requested by the Star.
The so-called "zero tolerance" blitz targeted 103 workplaces where two or more violations were discovered in the past three years, in sectors where precarious work is a growing issue like gyms, maintenance, and security services. Only 28 employers were fully compliant with the law.
"It is the Ministry of Labour's responsibility to put a stop to these practices," said John No, a lawyer focusing on workers' rights at Parkdale Community Legal Services. "Unfortunately for a lot of workers, it's not the first time they've been cheated."
Some of the most common violations were around excess hours of work, public holiday pay, shoddy recordkeeping and overtime pay. The ministry said it recovered $125,267 in unpaid entitlements to workers and that all employers voluntarily complied with orders to pay. It issued 42 fines ranging from $250 to about $300.
"Employees deserve to be paid for the hours they work. We continue to be vigilant to ensure all working Ontarians receive their entitlements under the Employment Standards Act," said a labour ministry spokesperson, Janet Deline, adding that tactics included educating employers, proactively inspecting workplaces, and fining or prosecuting bosses where necessary.
"The latest figures show that simple education of employers is not sufficient," No said. "There has to be strong disincentives, strong enforcement measures put in place to ensure that workers are not being exploited or cheated out of their wages."
The Ministry of Labour has taken steps over the past year to ramp up enforcement: Since 2015, the number of lawbreaking Ontario bosses facing prosecution has risen by more than 40 per cent, according to ministry statistics.