Many Almaguin jobs fall into the precarious work category.
Temporary contract employment is standard in the region’s patchwork economy, where employers and employees work hand to mouth. And this can lead to complicated relationships between the two.
Britney Lozza’s experience, which landed her and her employer at the Ontario Labour Relations board, underlines how difficult it can be to determine if you are a contractor or an employee.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled in favour of Lozza, awarding her $3,460. The case was a complicated one, and the Almaguin business involved told this newspaper it is taking the board to the Human Rights Commission and the privacy commissioner in relation to its handling of the issue.
According to a report released by the board, there were several questions that needed to be answered to decide if Lozza qualified as an employee rather than a contract worker.
It all began in July of 2016, when Lozza signed a contract to do work with a small business in Almaguin. The arrangement was that she would use the employer’s equipment and work with clients to negotiate a fee for her work, which would then be approved with her employer before going ahead with the job. Some of the clients included Almaguin and Muskoka area municipalities.
She continued to work there until January 2018 when she went to Sheridan College to become a paralegal.
It was during her time in school she learned how to determine if someone qualifies as an independent contractor or an employee.
On May 27, 2019, Lozza sent a letter to her former employer, one the board report described as “vitriolic,” demanding she be compensated as an employee rather than just a contractor. Lozza said she regrets the wording of her letter, and if she had to do it again she would go about it in a different manner.
Soon she received a call from police regarding her letter, and was spoken to about the incident. She was told by police not to contact the business again or it would be considered harassment.
The board needed to decide whether she was an independent contractor, and if she is entitled to any further compensation as a result of that.
In the report, since she had no clients of her own and worked exclusively for this company it was decided that, “Quite simply, she was an employee.”
“The notion that Lozza was an independent contractor, even when she made that claim in the latter stages of her employment, is fanciful, a completely artificial construct, though it might have served the parties’ interests,” the report said.
Lozza said she holds no ill will toward anyone involved, but she hopes others can learn from her experience and analyze their contracts to make sure they’re being fairly compensated for their work.
“There’s a lot of people who have these independent contractor relationships, and they don’t realize that they’re actually being treated as if they’re employees,” she said. “I think it’s something people should look into if they are in such a situation.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Britney Lozza let us know about her case and provided us with the report from the Ontario Labour Relations Board. With so many people in Almaguin working as contractors, her experience is worth noting.