THE WORKERS WON WITH CLASS ACTION. Not exactly the kind Karl Marx had in mind. But a big win none the less.
First, because workers got wages they were cheated out of. Second, because their win rested on the recognition of labour rights available to all workers—even when they haven’t joined a union. This doesn’t happen every day.
Labour rights matter
Security guards working for Russell Security in Ontario came together in a class action to recover unpaid wages. Russell Security has agreed to pay $725,000 to class members and make permanent policy changes in work requirements and conditions.
“This case is significant in employment class actions as it’s another example of classes of non-unionized employees negotiating employer policy changes as part of class action settlements,” says Joshua Mandryk, a lawyer with Goldblatt Partners, who represented class-members.
“It’s really a great example of continuing to expand the use of class actions to provide access to justice to low income and precarious workers,” says Mandryk.
Labour standards violations
The class members at Russell said the company required them to report for work and to prepare for duty at least 15 minutes before the official start of their shift. But the workers said Russell Security did not compensate them for the 15-minute pre-shift period, in violation of the Employment Standards Act and employment contract.
The company also agreed to update its employee handbook to stipulate that the employees are only expected to report for duty at the commencement of their scheduled shift and any additional time worked for the briefing process may be compensated.
The Russell Security guards settlement comes on the heels of a 2020 class action win for security guards working for Primary Response, Inc. In that case the Ontario Superior Court ruling required the employer to pay a settlement of $2.9 million to the workers.
The Primary Response workers complained their employer required them to show up for an unpaid 15 minutes before their shift; along with unlawfully averaging overtime pay, deducting the cost of uniforms from wages and not paying guards for the time spent training for the job.
“We see employment class actions as a hefty tool for non-unionized workers to try and improve and enforce their rights at work,” says Mandryk.
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