After a year and a half, Elisa finally received $1,800 owed to her by a previous employer. Elisa came to Canada from Mexico and landed a job as a bookkeeper for an accounting firm in Toronto. Like so many migrant workers, Elisa was exploited at her workplace and later threatened with deportation when she began to speak up for herself.
While working as a cleaner, Elisa met Tom* who promised her a job as a bookkeeper and offered to help her with her permanent resident application. Tom connected her to an accounting firm where his close friend worked. She got the job, but instead of being hired directly, Elisa was paid by Tom who invoiced the firm. This was not something that Elisa had expected when she applied for the job, but she went along with it. Shortly after working there, Tom began asking Elisa for money to cover his work expenses including a business trip to Mexico. Relying on Tom for the opportunity and support, Elisa allowed him to use her credit card with an agreement that she would be paid back by the accounting firm. When it came time for her to be reimbursed for the charges, the accounting firm refused, paying the money directly to Tom instead. They claimed that he would be the one to reimburse her. When Elisa attempted to contact Tom for the reimbursement he stopped taking her calls and later even threatened to call the police to have her deported. Frustrated and afraid, she left the accounting firm, still owed $1,800.
Elisa opened up about how she was feeling at the time: “I was really lost, I was being abused and I felt like no one could help me. It felt like no matter what I did nothing would happen.” With little support, Elisa felt like many workers who are exploited by their employers — powerless to fight back. Elisa came across a post about the Workers’ Action Centre and contacted the hotline. After sharing what happened to her, she received the support she needed to push back. She attended meetings with other workers and learned about her rights at work. Most importantly, she began to see that she was not alone.
With her newfound support, Elisa brought her case to the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry decided that Elisa was owed money from the accounting firm and sent them an order to pay. Thirteen months after the decision from the Ministry, she received a cheque in the mail for all of the money she was owed. “In the end, I was able to fight but I didn’t do it by myself. I had the support of the Workers’ Action Centre,” Elisa expressed in celebration. Elisa’s fight is a clear example that when workers fight together we can win. After winning her case, Elisa continued working with the Workers’ Action Centre to support other workers. We need stronger labour laws and enforcement so that employers face proper consequences for exploiting workers. Join the Justice for Workers campaign to fight for better rights at work.
If you or a worker that you know is in need of support, please contact the Workers’ Action Centre at (416) 531-0778 or 1-855-531-0778. You are not alone. There is a community here waiting to support you in your fight and together we can win!
*The name of the person involved in Elisa’s case has been changed to Tom for the purpose of sharing this information publicly.