Another Ontario company director faces individual consequences over unpaid wages this month, following two employers who were jailed in the last year for the same offense.
Com-Kote Interiors Inc., a commercial and residential painting company, and company director Frank Abbaglivo have been fined a total of $90,000 and the company ordered to pay more than $33,000 in wages to workers.
The Ministry of Labour issued orders to Com-Kote to pay wages to 12 painters, and later issued orders to Abbaglivo when the orders against the company were not paid. When the wages continued to be unpaid the company and Abbaglivo were charged failing to comply with orders to pay wages.
The defendants pleaded guilty to all charges, with Com-Kote fined $60,and Abbaglivo fined $30,000 for failing to comply with a director's order to pay wages. On top of the fines the parties must pay a 25% victim fine surcharge. They have 24 months to pay the fine.
The case bears similarities to two recent Ontario cases which resulted in jail time for Scrooge-like employers.
Steven Blondin, who owned six companies and owed more than $142,000 in wages, was personally fined $40,000 and was imprisoned for 90 days, an outcome he could have avoided had he paid the wages in the first place, or at least after the initial warning.
Another Ontario business owner, Peter Check, tried to avoid paying his employees by dissolving his company or claiming bankruptcy, then starting a new business the following year with a new batch of employees. The Ministry of Labour employment standards officers found wages ranging from $80 to $3,100 were owed to a significant number of employees and the ministry issued three orders to pay between December 2008 and May 2009 for an amount totally about $63,000. After numerous delays, Check was also fined $15,000 and sentenced to 90 days in prison.
The lesson for Com-Kote and Mr Abbaglivo? Don't test the ministry.
“These cases indicate that courts will, eventually, lose their patience with employers that fail to comply with their obligations under the ESA,” Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti employment lawyer Brian MacDonald said. “If an issue arises, be it an informal complaint raised by an employee or a formal complaint with the Ministry of Labour, we advise that you not test that patience.”