My current employer has not paid me for two months. I’ve emailed him my invoice for the month including several follow-up phone calls and meetings. He always has an excuse as to why he cannot pay me. There is no question that I am doing a great job and have accomplished a tremendous amount for his company within this time period. I have been paid once since I started three months ago.
What do I do? I like my job and would really hate to quit, especially since it is very hard to get another job in my field.
Signed: Late Payer
Miriam Anbar, a legal expert on employment issues from the leading firm Rodney Employment Law, warns employers who are withholding wages to watch out! Anbar offers the following guidelines below and she emphasizes that each case is unique and individuals should consult with an employment lawyer to ensure that they are fully protected.
1.Know the law.
The law in Ontario is very straightforward when it comes to withholding an employee’s wages. Employers are prohibited from withholding an employee’s wages, deducting from an employee’s wages or causing an employee to return his or her wages to the employer according to the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA), which sets out the minimum standards that employers and employees must follow in the workplace. Employers may only legally withhold or deduct an employee’s wages in situations where the deductions are authorized by law, by a court order, or by the employee in writing (subject to certain restrictions and conditions).
2.Establish a regular pay period.
Before you sign a job offer or accept a position, make sure the employer has established a regular pay period and a regular payday for their employees. All the wages earned in each pay period, other than vacation pay that is accruing, must be paid to the employee no later than their regular payday for the period. This is another law that is obligatory through the ESA and protects the employee whether or not you have a contract.
3. Know your rights.
It is in the best interest of employees to become familiar with their rights and protections under the ESA to ensure that they are treated fairly. Employers would also be well served to comply with their obligations under the ESA, so to avoid trouble with employees and any potential orders or fines from the Ministry of Labour.
4. Keep records.
Put as much of the communications with your manager in writing, especially regarding the payment or lack of it. Stay away from informal verbal conversations. You should document when you are being paid and your employer’s reaction to the delay in paying you; the more records you have to support your claim, the better. The employer has a legal obligation to pay you for your work. Although you may be concerned about losing your job, you may want to anonymously consult with the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Information Centre (tel 1-800-531-5551) on the issue.
5. Escalate it, if you have to.
Depending on the amount owed to you, the period of time that it is outstanding and the complexity of your workplace situation, you may wish to consult with an employment lawyer for sound legal advice, or contact the Ministry of Labour for some direction. You can discuss your situation in confidence and anonymously to find out what your options are before taking matters into the legal world.
6. Be prepared for the possibility of being fired.
If your employer fires you, they still owe you your outstanding wages. According to the ESA, your salary must be paid within seven days from your last day at work. Also, you may also have grounds for a case of constructive dismissal if you feel you have no choice but to quit as a result of the workplace environment.
7. Look for another job and decent employer!
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