Misbehaving labour inspectors must be held accountable

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

A Ministry of Labour-led investigation reportedly uncovered a scheme where several labour inspectors claimed overtime for time spent eating and drinking coffee at restaurants with colleagues.

If a dishonest CEO is ousted from a company for cause, after fudging accounting records to claim more pay, most of us would nod with approval.

 

But do we share the same collective sentiment when employees of lower rank commit the very same misdeeds? According to the law, there is no question that we absolutely should.

 

A recent Toronto Star article reported on the misconduct of Ontario labour inspectors in 2020 that sparked nine internal investigations for alleged wrongdoing.

 

The investigations led by the Ministry of Labour uncovered a scheme where several labour inspectors claimed significant chunks of overtime for periods of time actually spent eating and drinking coffee at restaurants with colleagues.

 

Notably, the misbehaving inspectors were participating in the ministry’s underground economy initiative in 2020 that was launched as a workplace blitz to root out employers that were “subjecting workers from vulnerable populations to unsafe working conditions.”

 

It turns out a ministry-issued tracking device, Chevrolet-Equinox, uncovered that some inspectors assigned to this weighty project misrepresented their time spent in the field.

 

One inspector appeared to be at the center of the investigation and was found to have received $4,100 in overtime pay for hours that were never worked.

 

Added to that, the same inspector was found to have “directed multiple public servants” to participate in the same over-reporting overtime scheme.

 

Perhaps worst of all, during the investigation the inspector denied being the ringleader and submitted Google Map data that was rife with inaccuracies.

 

It’s unclear if this or any of the inspectors were terminated for cause. In the private sector, conduct like this is rarely tolerated.

 

After going to the expense and effort of launching an internal investigation, and finding clear evidence of employee dishonesty and impropriety, no employer could feel safe continuing an employment relationship. It is simply untenable.

 

And while the courts have made it abundantly clear that terminations for cause must be reserved for the clearest of cases, few employers have the resources to launch internal investigations to confirm they have the proof they need to terminate for cause.

 

Now that we know the ministry has gone to much expense to investigate the misconduct of these labour inspectors, and now that we know there is evidence of time theft and fudged time sheets, the next step is an obvious one, no matter how hard.

 

Labour inspectors wield immense power in this province. The roles requires unimpeachable ethics and integrity. Terminations for cause are often not justified or necessary. But sometimes, they are.

 

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at sunira@worklylaw.com and your question may be featured in a future column.

 

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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