There’s a peculiar news story in today’s Toronto Star describing how ‘dozens’ of ‘contract workers’ had been dismissed by Bruce Power Corp for misuse of the internet. The story gives virtually no details about what happened, other than that the workers are alleged to have violated Bruce’s “Code of Conduct”.
If you are one of the workers affected, please feel free to leave a comment detailing what happened.
The observation I wanted to make was about another point raised by the story. Bruce Power claims that none of the workers are their own employees. Presumably that means that it is Bruce’s position that the workers are self-employed or employees of some other company, but who are provided with the use of computers by Bruce and subject to a code of conduct related to the computer use. The story itself describes the workers as ‘employees’, but that doesn’t mean anything, since reporters often miss the legal niceties.
Curiously, though, one person who was dismissed described himself as a ’20 year employee’. Does that mean he has worked for Bruce for 20 years as a contractor?
Who knows. Some companies like to call their workers ‘independent contractors’ so they can avoid the costs and responsibilities associated with having employees. But just because an employer calls someone a contractor, it doesn’t make it so. There are legal tests for determining if someone is an employee or not, as I noted in another recent post. So, for example, if the workers at Bruce believe that really are ‘employees’ and not self-employed, they could sue Bruce for wrongful dismissal, or file a claim for notice and maybe severance pay under the Employment Standards Act. The adjudicator would then need to decide the issue of employment status and then whether the employer had ’cause’ to dismiss the workers without notice. If they are not employees, then they are not entitled to any rights reserved in law only for employees.
A nice discussion of this appears in Belton v. Liberty Insurance, for example.
We’ll have to see if more information comes out about the status of these Bruce workers.