2 former Shaw employees win dispute over employee-contractor status

Company declared both independent contractors with no overtime or benefits but controlled substantial parts of their job

Telecommunications company Shaw Communications has been found have violated the Canada Labour Code by treating two former employees as independent contractors when they were really employees.

Rob Browridge and Tasha Lowe worked for Shaw at the company’s community television division in Vancouver, for more than two years each. Browridge was a cameraman and Lowe was an editor. Though they both worked full-time hours, Shaw said they were independent contractors, so it didn’t give them overtime, vacation pay or make deductions from their paycheques. They each complained but they were told to leave if they didn’t like the situation. Eventually they left the company and filed complaints under the Canada Labour Code.

In Browridge’s case, Shaw was found to have controlled his pay, work schedule, responsibilities and place of work. Under the code, he was considered an employee. Shaw was ordered to pay Browridge back pay.

However, it seems Shaw didn’t learn its lesson. While the company was being ordered to pay Browridge for its violations, it hired Lowe under the same circumstances. She worked as an independent contractor for two-and-one-half years before she left and filed a similar complaint that led to a similar finding. Shaw was ordered to pay Lowe one year’s back pay, the maximum allowed.

“They can’t have their cake and eat it too,” Browridge told CBC News. “They can’t have people as independent contractors without any benefits, but then expect them to be at their beck and call 100 per cent of the time.”

In a statement, Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said the company was “committed to ensuring that our workplaces are compliant with the law” and was assessing its practices regarding independent contractors.

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