Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

We have a winner in our What Would You Do? contest

Canadian Contractor

Jax Bailey of Prince George, BC, has won a DeWalt 12V self-levelling Green Laser

We were overwhelmed with dozens of well-considered, well-written responses to our What Would You Do? contest.

Our latest case study featured a contractor, Leonard Zarky, who finds out his crew is undertaking illegal cash work for a client on weekends.

Thank you everyone for giving this important issue serious thought.
(Read the details of the Contest)

In the final analysis, our winning entry came from Jax Bailey, a second-year apprentice from Prince George, BC.


Jax explained the serious legal and ethical implications in this case study, and offered a detailed, sensible approach to a resolution.

Jax said: “Leonard needs to take the reins and tell his crew that he made an error in judgement, and now make sure these young workers are aware of how dangerous this situation is. They may not have the background and experience to properly assess the risk and are just thinking about the few extra dollars.” 

Congratulations, Jax!
You win a DeWalt 12V self-leveling Green Laser. (Retail price approx. $699.)

Take a moment to read some of the excellent ideas that were expressed in some of the runner-up entries…

All wrong from the get-go
“No one should turn a blind eye to people working illegally … cheating the government of taxes, cheating the WSIB of remittances, and cheating the country by endangerment to the environment and potentially endangering his workforce through lack of knowledge regarding Labor Laws, policy and procedures.”

“I put some of the blame on Leonard for his crew working for Snell. When the guys were informed by Snell that Leonard had no problem with them working for him, they might have assumed that their boss knew about the illegal, dangerous project and approved. The guys also might have felt pressured to say ‘Yes’ to the client.”

Company policies; the “Coulda, woulda, shoulda”
“Zarky’s problem began long before he saw the scope of the side job.  He didn’t establish his company’s criteria or ethics practises from the beginning of the job.  If Zarky would have reviewed his Terms & Conditions with his customer during the initial contract, the customer would have fully understood the concept behind Employee Insurances & WSIB. By showing the customer at the very beginning how his company is structured and how it operates, this customer would not have asked the uncomfortable questions and allow his employees to be in an uncomfortable position.”

“Right from the get-go, Leonard should have been above board.  He should have attempted to protect his employees and model good employer practices… been straightforward with his client and set boundaries for his workers….I found myself asking, “Is he secure in his principles enough to be unwavering with clients?  Can he let go of clients that do not have the same principles?”

Zarky should have known better
“Under the Labor Act, anyone injured doing a project or performing a task for an individual or employer for monetary gain, even beer and hotdogs, can be charged under the Act and fined as an individual. The individual who gave you the beer and hot dogs is considered under the Act to be the employer, and can be charged…. There is no provision here for ignorance on your part.”

“Zarky put himself and his company at risk by his full knowledge of what was going on. It has legal implications…..He is also risking his company’s reputation by being involved.”

“If I had any idea about this work continuing, I would personally delivery a letter on my business letterhead to each worker stating that I would not stand up for them if they got in trouble with the law or if they got hurt. I would make the workers sign this letter, and have my lawyer keep a copy in the minute book.”

“The law extends to the workers, as they would be charged for doing illegal work without permit.”

Talking it out with the client and the crew
“Be open and honest…. Zarky should sit everyone down and in a calm and firm manner explain his position to both the client and his crew, explain the consequences of the Snell’s actions, how it’s breaking a very stringent set of laws, and reservations about how the work is being undertaken.  Suggest some ways that the work can be done in a safer manner so it minimizes the risks to the crew and the business.”

“I recommend a good heart-to-heart with the crew.  Inform them about the hazards, risks and potentially illegal activity. Remind them they have the right to refuse work.  Also reiterate that working on the weekends impacts what they can give the team during the week.”

“I would advise the workers that they would be not be insured by the company and not open to any WSIB claim should accidents or injuries occur.”

Actively discourage the crew from doing the work
“As a business owner, I frown upon my workers doing side work. Yes, the weekends are the employees’
time. However, if it is work that the company could be doing then I would hope my employees would refuse the work and promote the company instead.”

“I would advise the staff to walk away, and if they continue to work on that project it would be grounds for termination.  Their actions could be linked to the company, and you need to protect your livelihood. If the customer continues the project without your staff, then report it. You want to walk away from this with clean hands and conscious.”

Not everyone agreed….
“I would advise Leonard to let his guys know the risks that they are taking which really, in my opinion, is all that he can do.”

“As an employer Leonard is in a bit of a spot if he tells his employees they are not allowed to work for clients after hours, or tell the client he is not allowed to hire them after hours. Legally what your employees do after they are off the clock is their business.”

We will announce a new What Would You Do? contest in a few weeks.

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