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Employment & Labour

Jail in employee wage matters excessive

Arthur Zeilikman

Jail time for Employment Standards Act breaches related to wages is extreme, and such punishments should be reserved for employment cases involving damage to property, bodily injury or death, Toronto labour and employment lawyer Arthur Zeilikman says in Law Times.  Read Law Times

“To take away a guy’s liberty because basically he did not pay them is excessive. A contractual dispute like that should have had its resort in the civil court,” Zeilikman says in the article.

A court recently jailed company director Steven Blondin for 90 days for failing to pay employees, the report says. Blondin also received $280,000 in fines plus a 25-per-cent victim surcharge, the article says, noting the six companies he operated must also pay employees more than $125,000 in owed wages, taking his total exposure to almost $500,000.

After the sentencing by Toronto justice of the peace Vladimir Bubrin in November, Ontario’s then-labour minister, Linda Jeffrey, hailed the decision, the article says.

Although the cumulative total of owed wages sounds large, in the article Zeilikman says it has less impact when presented on a per-employee basis, noting split between the 61 employees, the company owed each an average of about $2,000.

“I think you have to put things in perspective,” he says in Law Times.

“I think the law is wrong here. The circumstances where jail should be involved is if there’s damage to property or some sort of injury to a person.”

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