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Doughnut Shop facing a 'hole' lot of trouble.

QUESTION: I am 16 years old and worked at a local donut shop for a year, part-time. After attending high school all day I worked a regular eight-hour shift that ended at 11 p.m. along with a co-worker who was my ride home. There were supposed to be two people showing up to take over for us at 11 but only one did. I have been told before by my manager  that I am not allowed to work more than eight hours a day and that I would not get overtime if I did. In addition to being exhausted and having school the next day, if I stayed I would have no ride home. My co-worker and I left.
The next morning I got an angry call from my manager telling me that it was illegal for one staff member to be left alone on night shift. I explained all of the above. The manager said that my decision to leave an employee alone gave her no choice but to terminate me. My ride home also got fired the next day. What can I do?
ANSWER: You can file a reprisal complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour Employment Standards Branch. It is illegal to try to force an employee to work more than eight hours a day or 48 hours in a week unless you have special permission from the Ministry of Labour or your shifts were usually more than eight hours.  Yours was not. It is also illegal to take action against an employee for refusing to work more than eight hours in a day. By her own words, the manager admitted that she was taking a reprisal action against you for having refused to work more.
The Employment Standards Act prohibits any negative treatment being directed at an employee because they asked the employer to comply with the Act, asked questions about their rights under the Act, file a complaint or exercises or attempt to exercise a right under the Act.
Whether you knew it or not, by leaving after eight hours you were exercising your right not to work more than eight hours.
Go online and file the complaint immediately. I do not see how you can lose. The Employment Standards Act officer can make a variety of dramatic orders, including an order for reinstatement (if you actually want it), lost wages including lost wages for the time they estimate it takes you to find new employment, job search expenses, emotional pain and suffering and a variety of other heads of damage.
The investigating officer will also be very interested in why management at your donut shop thought it was appropriate to put the responsibility for insuring that there was more than one person working the shift on a 16-year-old part-time student.
If you  had been trained, and there was a firm policy, that on becoming aware of only one person being present on the night shift you were to immediately call the manager, things might be different. If your responsibility, clearly communicated to you, was to immediately call management and you didn’t, you could be disciplined. That discipline could include termination. You would be entitled to two weeks’ pay under the Employment Standards Act but that would be all. Your manager’s words, however, were quite clear. You were fired for exercising your rights.
I believe your previous employer is in for a significant amount of trouble and they’re about to be schooled by an Employment Standards Act officer once you file the complaint.
That schooling may include fines and prosecution over and above any monies they are ordered to pay you.
Ed Canning practices labour and employment law with Ross & McBride LLP, in Hamilton, representing both employers and employees. You can email him at ecanning@rossmcbride.com.

You can access a library of Ed's articles on the Hamilton Spectator's website here
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809