Illegal fees are one of the many problems we face at precarious jobs. For temporary agency workers, it’s important to know that no temporary agency is allowed to charge its current, former or future employees any fee related to employment. Recently, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) decided against FDM Group, a temp agency that charged workers as much as $30,000 for leaving the company before their two-year commitment was over. A Toronto Star article reported that the workers’ lawyers called the fee “a form of ‘indenturing’ that tied workers to low wage jobs” . These outrageous fees for leaving work assignments or training programs were found illegal for all temp agencies under the Employment Standards Act.
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To learn more about your rights and what decent work looks like, sign up for the Justice for Workers Teach-In on June 12.
However, workers know that our rights under the law are too often violated in practice. We are concerned that FDM is still trying to collect illegal fees from workers who quit. Working together with Parkdale Community Legal Clinic, we are organizing to get the Ministry of Labour to ensure that FDM follows the law.
Temp agency work already brings low wages and unsafe working conditions to our communities, especially immigrant communities of colour. Samara, a WAC member working as a personal support worker through a temp agency, told CityNews that “she faces low wages, job insecurity, and no benefits or sick pay” . Workers should not be targeted with illegal fees on top of that!
If you are trying to leave FDM or another agency and are worried that you’ll be charged an illegal fee, here are some tips to protect yourself:
- It’s important to have clear documentation of your communication with your employer. Submit your resignation in writing, not just verbally. Save emails and take screenshots of texts between you and your employer.
- If you have a work email account, forward all emails about your resignation to your personal email account. The company will lock you out of your work email once they know you’re leaving, which means you will lose access to the documented proof that they are charging you an illegal fee.
- In writing, ask your employer if they will be pursuing the fee. Try to get your employer to respond to the question in writing. If they respond only verbally over the phone, take detailed notes of what the person said, the name of the person and when the call took place. Or you can record the phone call.
- If it’s clear that they intend to charge you a fee, ask them what will happen if you do not pay. If they say they’ll take out a lawsuit against you, tell them you know that the OLRB found these fees to be illegal. Try to have this conversation in writing or, if it’s verbal, record it or take detailed notes.
- If the company still tries to get you to pay, call the Workers’ Action Centre at 416-531-0778 for support or get in touch with a lawyer.
You can learn more about your rights at the Justice for Workers Teach-In online this Saturday, June 12. Sign up for one or two workshops that can help you understand your rights at work (Workplace Justice) and envision what is possible for workers if we organize together. You can choose up to two workshops:
- 11:00 am – 12:15 pm (choose one)
- Raising the Minimum Wage: Myths/Truths
- Workplace Justice: Fighting for Our Rights at Work
- 1:00 – 2:15 pm (choose one)
- Can We Afford Decent Work for All?
- Will We Need Paid Sick Days After COVID-19?
The best way to defend your rights is to organize with other workers! Let your coworkers know that these fees are illegal by sharing this blog post on Facebook and Twitter. The following information may also be helpful for you and other workers in your community:
- What You Need to Know About Ontario’s Temporary Paid Sick Days
- What to Do If You Are Infected by COVID-19 at Work / ¿Qué hacer si te infectas con COVID-19 en el trabajo?
 Temp agency billed young workers a prohibited $30,000 fee for leaving their job, labour board rules | The Star
 PSW temp worker risks her life to help others but barely earns enough to get by | CityNews Toronto