JUAN SERVANTES WAS DETERMINED TO MAKE 'EM PAY. When Domino's Pizza didn't he complained. It got him fired. He complained some more. It finally got him the $28,144.55 he always said the fast food giant owed him.
The father of six from Mississauga delivered pizzas for Domino’s for over four years. Domino’s did not pay him minimum wage or any benefits. Juan knew this was wrong and said so.
Domino’s brushed him off. They told him they only had to pay minimum wage and benefits to “employees”—which he wasn’t, they said. They categorized him as an “independent contractor”—not entitled to minimum wage, overtime or vacation pay.
Juan didn’t buy it. He prepped vegetables and cooked pizzas in a Domino’s kitchen; he delivered Domino’s pizzas; he worked to a schedule set out by Domino’s; and he wore a Domino’s shirt. He sure felt like a Domino’s employee and not an independent contractor. Juan filed a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour saying so.
‘Just money that I am owed’
In early November, the ministry ruled in Juan’s favour. They ordered the franchise to pay their onetime delivery man $28,144.54 in lost wages and benefits. “I always thought that the amount I was being awarded was merely what I should have been paid all along,” he said. “This is just money that I am owed.”
Over $17,000 of Juans’ award was due him because he was not paid the minimum wage. The remainder included vacation pay and overtime pay he hadn’t received.
The Labour Board also ruled that Domino’s unfairly treated Juan, because it removed him from its work schedule after learning that he’d filed the complaint with the Ministry in March 2018. This left Juan, his wife, and four young children without an income. “I was just trying to do something right, not only for me, but for my family,” he explained.
It pays to know your rights
After filing his complaint, Juan told CBC that he was earning just $8 per hour earlier this year plus tips. The 50-year-old also drove his own car and had no guaranteed hours.
Juan was inspired to stand up for his rights by the minimum wage increase in Ontario in January 2018, which was implemented after a long campaign by unions and labour rights activists.
He explained to CBC that he began researching his circumstances after the minimum wage went up to $14-an-hour. However, when he asked the owner of the Domino’s franchise about a pay increase, the businessman told Juan that he wasn’t eligible. Juan knew his boss was wrong. He fought on to secure his rights.
Juan did not receive money to cover the whole four years he was cheated. Ontario’s Employment Standards Act only allows the ministry to order companies to pay out unpaid wages for the two years prior to the complaint being filed. But for Juan half a pizza was better than none.
Hardly an isolated case
Juan is not the first worker who had to fight against profit-hungry, greedy corporations just to get what they are entitled to. Kyle Novak, for example, worked for a Domino’s in Guelph in February 2017 for the scandalous wage of $5 an hour.
Kyle also filed a complaint with the Labour Ministry, and won almost $200 of back pay and vacation pay.
“I’d like enough employees to be aware of it so that they can take similar action that I did and seek the compensation they’re probably owed,” he told CBC. “These stores ... they have the means to pay people a fair wage. If they aren’t doing that, I think that’s inexcusable.”
Far too many workers are victims of the outrageous practice of being categorized as independent contractors, when they plainly are not. Their employers, meanwhile, continue to reap huge benefits. Wealthy business owners don’t just save by cheating their workers out of minimum wage and overtime pay. They also avoid paying payroll tax, health insurance contributions, and other workplace benefits.
A 2015 report by the US-based Economic Policy Institute described the conditions facing independent contractors in many economic sectors as akin to “indentured servitude.” It also stressed that independent contractors can now be found in virtually all fields of the job market, including construction workers, technical workers, taxi drivers, and cleaners.
That’s why wins by workers like Juan and Kyle are so important. They show that working people can fight back—and even win— against employers with no respect for working people or their rights. It offers a rare chance to spread the good word about how standing up for yourself can make a difference.
This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.
Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.