In Alberta, there are certain legal guarantees about things like hours, wages, overtime, holiday pay, and deductions from earnings. All of these, and more, are covered under Alberta’s Employment Standards Code.

To better understand how this all works, let’s take a closer look at Alberta’s employment standards. Then we will look at what you can do should your employer not meet those employment standards, which would include what you can do should your employer have improperly deducted from your pay. Finally, we’ll see what the penalties are for violations of these employment standards. A skilled Alberta employment lawyer can help to answer your questions.

What Are Employment Standards?

Alberta’s employment standards are the minimum standards that employers must provide to their employees. Notice that this is not a recommendation. These are the standards that must be met; otherwise, the employer could face negative consequences for their failure to comply.

The employment standards deal with a lot of different things, far more than simply an employee’s earnings. Rules related to general holidays, deductions, exceptions for specific industries, group terminations, hours of work and rest, job-protected leave, minimum wage, overtime hours, payment of earnings, temporary layoffs, termination, vacations, and youth employment can all be found through the link in this paragraph.

For our purposes, we are going to limit ourselves to the rules relating to pay. These are the areas where an employer may commit wage theft, after all.

  • Deductions for Earnings: There are many laws about what can and cannot be deducted from an employee. For example, employers can deduct for any deductions required by law, recovery of overpayment, or things like dental plans and social funds (if the employee agrees to them). Other deductions, such as for uniforms, are not allowed, and there is a cap on deductions for meals and lodging.
  • Minimum Wage: Minimum wage must be met, and this must be from the employer. Tips and expense money don’t count towards the minimum wage. Similarly, an employee must be paid for at least three hours of minimum wage each time they go to work, even if they work for less than three hours. 
  • Overtime: Most employees can earn overtime pay but some professionals and employees are subject to exceptions. If an employee works more than eight hours in a day or if an employee works more than 44 hours in a week (whichever is greater), anything over is overtime (8/44 rule). Overtime is 1.5 times an employee’s regular wage, except where there is a written overtime agreement already in place.
  • Holidays: Although there are some complexities to the entitlement of holiday pay, generally, if an employee has worked with the same employer for at least 30 days in the 12 months prior to a holiday, then they are entitled to holiday pay for any eligible holidays they work. This would be 1.5 times what they normally earn, or they could be granted regular pay for the holiday or a paid day off at their daily wage in the future.

What Should I Do If My Employer is Not Meeting Employment Standards?

If you suspect that you are not receiving the pay you are entitled to, or you believe your employer is failing to meet employment standards in other areas, then there are some steps you can take.

The first step is to speak to the employer about the issue. Sometimes this is enough to clear up an issue and save you a lot of time.

A complaint can be made if an employee feels an employer has failed to pay them their earnings or provide anything else that they are entitled to through the Employment Standards Code. Complaints can be made while working without fear of retaliation, as the law protects employees in these circumstances. If retaliation happens, an employment lawyer may be of assistance to ensure the employer is penalized and to protect the employee’s rights.

What is the Penalty For Employment Standards Violations?

Employers are required to meet employment standards. Failing to comply with these standards can lead to disciplinary actions being taken against the employer, such as an administrative penalty. Multiple violations will result in progressive penalties being applied. In addition, the Employer may be required to pay the Employee the money they are owed.

An administrative penalty may be imposed for failing to comply with the standards or failing to comply with an enforcement action. Administrative penalties may range from as low as $500 to as high as $6000, depending on the level of administrative penalty and whether or not it is a first-time violation of the standards or a regular occurrence.

Should I Work With an Employment Lawyer?

Employment law can be a tricky subject. The standards we looked at above apply to most employers and employees, but there are always exceptions depending on such diverse factors as age or field of employment. This can mean that what seems like a violation for one person may not actually be a violation for the next person.

Instead of trying to sort through these complicated laws on your own, it is much easier to work with an employment lawyer that understands what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to employment in Alberta. That way, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle while still ensuring that your rights are protected, and you aren’t a victim of further violations such as wage theft.