I'm reeling today after yet another bout of news regarding an unethical business-owner in Kingston, the city I live in. This one hits close to home as I used to herald this business as something great. Way back when they came to town, I started to follow the Farm Girl's facebook and twitter sites. I shared and retweeted some of her menus. You can imagine the choked feeling I had when I woke up yesterday to read that the Farm Girl hasn't paid her employees for months.
You can read the article HERE as reported in the local Whig Standard newspaper by diplomatic journalist Steph Crozier, follow her on Twitter.
There are a lot of things to say and ask here. I have a lot of questions to ask a few people.
Can I just preface all of this by bringing in the fact that employment law and standards should really be taught in school as all four of these unpaid workers allowed this to happen for many months before asking for assistance from the appropriate authorities. That's a shame in itself. The Ministry of Labour is here to help us, not to scare us and not as a last resort. A greater shame is that this particular business owner obviously knew nothing about the Labour Code either. It's this that we must change for the future of our youth and our peers. I do it for my niece Maddy.
In reading responses and comments from these business owners in the article above, you can clearly see that they just don't get it. The husband states he can't understand why the girls chose to go to the Ministry of Labour about this, saying: "we didn't do it maliciously".
Mr. Farm Girl, let's see if I can break this down into questions that illustrate the magnitude of your offense:
Was it malice that gave you the idea that your bills, your needs, your food, your meds, your rent and all else were more important than that of these four young workers? How could you think that? Are you really that entitled?
Was it malice that made you think that the progress of your business and your financial security was more important than that of Miss Smith's, Miss Politis's, Miss Jensen's, or Miss Everdell's?
In a dozen years, when your son is working a summer job and his employer fails to pay him, how will you feel? Will you wonder if there was malice involved?
When you open your new bistro will you pay those employees on time?
I mean really ... how is it that your family, your life, your business and your recreation is more important than anyone else's? And do you expect to succeed in this wee town? You better learn Employment Standards ... there I've even linked it for you.
If you or someone you love works in Ontario, you should learn it too and keep the link handy for reference. The toll free number to call to ask anonymous questions is 800-531-5551.
I remember right after the Farm Girl food truck came to town. My niece Maddy and I snuggled up on her big chair with her tablet so we could watch this video of the Farm Girl roasting a little chicken. Maddy, at age 11 is a better cook than most adults I know. She may not have her Safe Food Handler's Certificate but she knows about cleanliness and keeping things sanitary! I remember saying to her,
"Holy heck would ya look at that rock. If you were wearing a ring like that would YOU stick your hand inside a dead chicken carcass?".
We both exclaimed grossed-out expressions and continued to watch.
So I ask you the reader these questions:
Is it judgey of me that the first thought that ran through my mind when I read this article, was that diamond? I even saw it in my mind ... with all it's shiney little friends.
Do I have the right to ask Farm Girl and Farm Hubby why they didn't use that big rock as collateral so that they could pay back the four workers to whom they owe almost $4200?
And I ask employment standards officers and anyone else in a position to answer:
Do they have the right to ask those workers to work and not get paid?
Do they have the right to open another business, when they can't pay the employees they have?
I ask Municipal authorities:
Why would you want a restaurant in Kingston owned by people who don't pay their employees?
I ask all Kingstonians, all Ontarians, all Canadians:
Do the rights of business owners and their pursuit to success trump the rights of the employee?
I mean, to run a business you need employees. If you can't pay your employees on time, then you're not a good business owner!! Imagine how awesome the employee-employer relationship would be, if how you treated your workers were audited and recorded like credit! There could be an agency like Equifax possibly called Busnifax where employees could report, with proof of course, the offences that certain business owners commit. Oh I'm sure that seems silly to some. I mean, to many HOW we're treated by our bosses isn't nearly as important as to whether or not we can re-pay our debts. Funny isn't that?
TRANSPARENCY = PROGRESSIVE RESPECT FOR ALL
As you likely read in the above article, the Farms consider themselves paid up. Haha! Oh I gotta admit I had a chuckle over that. The Farms have paid all four girls by post-dated checks ... the last of which is dated March 20th. I recall a time in the car biz where I got rightly scolded for taking a post-dated check! Which for all intents and purposes and country-wide business and banking practices, isn't paid in full at all. In fact, I wonder how much of those post dated checks are banking on a good opening night at the bistro?!
Having a business is a privilege that obviously shouldn't be given to just anyone.
Having employees is also a privilege that shouldn't be given to just anyone.
We ensure that Ontarians are treated fairly in the workplace on a "complaint-basis" where no oversight exists, but rather unethical practice is only exposed when an employee complains. How many employees in Ontario know the above employment standards' hotline number? How many knew they could call and ask anonymous questions?
This Farm Girl food truck story has only reiterated what I already knew:
Kingston, Ontario, and Canada all need to bone up on our Employment Standards ... and oversight is definitely needed.