CEO asks employees to lie on timecards or risk job losses — violating labour laws

A number of staff of a high-profile firm say they had been pressured into giving up paid trip days, then instructed to lie about it on their timecards — or threat job losses throughout the peak of the pandemic.

In an inside firm video offered to Go Public, Franklin Holtforster — president and CEO of Ottawa-based Colliers Challenge Leaders — asks workers to “give up” trip time in the event that they need to save their very own jobs and people of their coworkers.

“I am asking everybody to work a full week and to report an extra eight hours of trip onto your time sheet each week in April and Might,” Holtforster says within the video launched to workers on April 24.

“This reduces our compensation prices and permits us to keep away from mass layoffs … Now if all of us give up a little bit of future trip, we are able to hold our co-workers and ourselves employed.”

Holtforster tells Go Public the venture administration firm tried different methods to chop prices — lowering bills and compensation for dozens of managers by as much as 20 per cent — earlier than asking staff to voluntarily quit trip days.

WATCH | Holtforster asks workers to surrender trip days: 

Go Public spoke with a variety of workers; all had comparable experiences and all say they do not imagine it was voluntary.

One worker tells Go Public staff who refused to surrender trip days had been pressured by managers to vary their minds — and their timecards — receiving frequent calls from increased ups, asking in the event that they deliberate to conform.

“It is not a alternative … there’s a lot concern that when you do not do that, you are going to lose your job,” mentioned the worker, who works on infrastructure and revitalization initiatives for the corporate.

“The scary half is that if you are going to get fired, say subsequent week, you haven’t any trip time to point out.”

Go Public just isn’t figuring out the employees who contacted us, as they concern shedding their jobs.

In keeping with two employment attorneys Go Public spoke with, it is towards provincial labour legal guidelines to remove or scale back trip time that is required by regulation and to provide false or deceptive trip time information.

One other insider mentioned many staff had been afraid to complain or refuse the request, particularly given the affect of COVID-19 on the job market.

“I do know that loads of my colleagues are struggling,” mentioned the worker.

“Any colleagues that have not been right here a 12 months at the moment are within the damaging” — that means they’ve given away so many trip days they owe the corporate time.

The pandemic has hammered firms and staff, in accordance with the newest Statistics Canada numbers. The survey discovered from February to April, three million Canadians misplaced their jobs throughout. A further 2.5 million remained employed however labored lower than half their ordinary hours.

“In two months alone, that is extra job losses than we have seen within the final three recessions mixed,” mentioned Steven Tobin, the manager director of the Labour Market Data Council, an Ottawa-based non-profit analysis institute. 

Steven Tobin, government director of the Labour Market Data Council, says the job losses from the COVID-19 disaster had been unprecedented. (Labour Market Data Council)


Colliers Challenge Leaders requested workers if they’d quit trip days after income declined considerably and layoffs loomed, Holtforster mentioned in an announcement to Go Public.

The corporate has 620 workers throughout the nation. It has landed federal authorities infrastructure contracts price over $260 million within the final 5 years, in accordance with knowledge revealed by Public Works and Government Services Canada.

The corporate has additionally been awarded thousands and thousands extra in municipal and provincial authorities contracts through the years and is a subsidiary of Colliers Worldwide, a large international actual property and funding administration firm that reported over $3 billion USD (about $four billion Cdn) in income final 12 months.

The corporate has since apologized, and provided to return these trip days after Go Public’s inquiries.

Unethical and unlawful

However labour attorneys say what Colliers Challenge Leaders was asking its workers to do was not solely unethical however unlawful.

“On each single stage it is offensive,” says lawyer Howard Levitt, who practises employment regulation in eight provinces and is the editor-in-chief of the Dismissal and Employment Regulation Digest — which covers notable dismissal and employment regulation circumstances throughout the nation.

“Encouraging staff to create fraudulent time playing cards is a violation of employment requirements laws in each single province throughout Canada, leaving workers with no official report of what the corporate owes them and no official assure they will ever get their time or cash,” he says.

Employment lawyer Howard Levitt says what Colliers Challenge Leaders was asking of workers was unethical and broke labour legal guidelines. (Submitted by Howard Levitt)

Levitt additionally refutes the suggestion staff had a alternative.

“There’s nothing voluntary about it when you’re primarily suggesting to workers that when you do not do it, there might be penalties down the road,” he says. 

Many Canadians are having their rights trampled on at work throughout COVID-19, in accordance with labour and human rights lawyer Aaron Rosenberg. The Toronto-based lawyer says he is seeing circumstances the place employers are utilizing the pandemic as an excuse to “throw labour legal guidelines out the window.”

“What we’re seeing throughout the nation, is nothing in need of anarchy. Employers are exploiting staff’ rights for the needs of expediency and saving the underside greenback,” Rosenberg says.

He says he is seeing workers being laid off with out severance packages and solely a promise they will get their jobs again “someday” sooner or later, whereas different employers are demanding staff settle for pay cuts or decreased hours.

Some firms are going even additional, Rosenberg says, by utilizing COVID-19 as a canopy to do away with workers they suppose are an issue.

“What we do see is that employers, in some circumstances, are actually taking benefit of the present disaster to take advantage of basic working rights.”

Employment and human rights lawyer Aaron Rosenberg says he is seeing many circumstances the place employers are breaking labour legal guidelines underneath the duvet of COVID-19. (Submitted by Aaron Rosenberg)

‘Darkish facet of labour markets’

As a result of staff are afraid to talk up today, firms usually tend to get away with breaking the foundations, says Sylvia Fuller, a College of British Columbia sociology professor whose analysis centres on “the darkish facet of labour markets” together with insecurity within the office.

“There’s an incentive to attempt to make their backside line higher any manner they will, and if that is on the again of their staff, they usually can get away with it, there is definitely a motivation to do this,” she says.

“The flip facet is the employees are significantly weak proper now. This is not the time that anyone desires to be taking a stand and going out and looking for a brand new job since you don’t love what’s taking place in your office … it is an ideal storm.” 

After listening to from Go Public, Colliers Challenge Leaders apologized, reversed its plan and provided to present again the holiday days. 

UBC sociology professor Sylvia Fuller says the powerful job market due COVID-19 has created ‘an ideal storm,’ the place workers are afraid to talk out about abuses within the office. (Submitted by Sylvia Fuller)

The corporate declined a request for an interview, however in his assertion to Go Public, Holtforster mentioned they’d “the very best of intentions.”

“Regardless of this … we perceive that some workers felt pressured to take part and wound up working throughout their time-off.

“That’s not what was supposed, and it’s actually not what is true. We respect our workers’ well-deserved time without work,” wrote Holtforster.

He mentioned the corporate consulted with dozens of workers members beforehand, including the “initiative” was supposed to be a “voluntary effort to protect jobs” by which greater than 90 per cent of workers participated.

One of many staff calls the reversal “injury management.”

“There is no such thing as a manner the holiday hours could be given again till somebody began shaking the tree,” the worker mentioned.

Issues are nonetheless unsure for staff at Colliers Challenge Leaders. Staff say they are on pins and needles, ready to see if the corporate’s reversal on trip time will revive the chance of job losses.

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