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Labour Laws and You

Thursday, May 3, 2012

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Written by Chris Carr

Everyone is gone. The campus is very quiet. Just the soothing sounds of central air and the occasional polite ding from an unoccupied elevator. Seriously, the one down the hall from my office just opens for like no reason. Everybody has gone home. Everybody's working for the weekend. Everybody's got a new romance? Maybe.

More than just likely, everyone is off working. Some of you will be working laborious jobs like landscaping, painting or selling windows door-to-door. Some of you may be working in retail—actually most of you will be working in retail, at least until graduation. Nothing so noble as the strong, the proud, the counter-help. But do you know your rights as an employee? You would be surprised how many do not. Regardless of your temporary vocation, it is crucial that you know your rights as a student and a worker.

Minimum wage is $10.25. If you aren't making more than this, you must be a server or possibly under the age of 18. This is the first check-point. Secondly, is your employer paying you for any time over eight hours a day and more than 44 hours per week? Seems confusing, but come with me and we will delve into the wonderful world of labour law.

You can work more than eight hours day working day, however not against your will. It is all right for you employer to schedule a 10 hours shift, however, by law, they must ask for your permission. Some employers, with good practices, go as far as getting your permission in writing. Now, the employer can do this, as long as the resulting hours at the end of the week is under 44 hours, if it is over, you are entitled to overtime pay. Overtime pay is usually 1.5 times your hourly wage, per hour. Further more you are entitled to one, half-hour break every five hours of consecutive work. Cigarette or coffee breaks are not required of your employer, so if you get them, that is just icing.

Now what if you are fired? Well if an employer does not give proper notice of your termination, you are entitled to at least two weeks of pay in severance, but only if you worked at any place for over a year. Anything under a year of work is questionable whether or not you will receive severance. Also, employers are not required divulge the reason for your termination. So next time you are thinking about burning down the store, realize that you may be giving them a reason for termination, for example.

All these things are important for the employee to know, especially the student or young employee. There is a ton more stuff that you, as a worker, have the right to enjoy. All the rules and stipulations can be found on the Ontario government site here. 

It is important to remember that just because you may be a lower-level employee does not give you lower-level rights. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Labour can do nothing about how your boss is just a cantankerous old prune who doesn’t know a thing about bicycles. Oh, whoa, did that just get personal? Sorry, old scars run deep.

What I am trying to say is that the best thing any employee can do is know their rights and act within them. Only then can you be untouchable and work to the best of your ability. But, sometimes, there is nothing you can do except sit back and collect. Some people are not cut out to manage people and sometimes, those are the people you are stuck working under. I'm looking at you, supervisor of Arby's Niagara Falls circa 2002!

So the next time your boss tries to muscle their way passed your rights as worker, stay strong and know that the Ministry of Labour is on your side. If it costs you your job, call the Labour Board, they have people who will fight for you. Let's hope none of this actually happens, but if it does, bring down thy mighty hammer of the Ministry of Labour to smite thy enemies. Or just give them a call, whichever works.

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  1. Posted by: ctayler on May 8, 2012 @ 3:09pm

    Also useful to know: probably not covered if you work for a program under the university. http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/factsheets/fs_general.php

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