[email protected] now at work!

New free legal service serves Ontario's low-income workers

[email protected] (pronounced "justice at work") is the name of the new employment law practice group at the Community Legal Clinic-Simcoe, Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes. The Clinic is now accepting clients who have been wrongfully dismissed, constructively dismissed, unfairly denied termination pay, exposed to a job-related health or safety hazard, or been the victim of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. It does not charge for its services

[email protected] employs lawyers and community legal workers to provide public legal education, self-help materials, legal advice, brief service and representation before courts and tribunals. The program accepts clients from anywhere in the province.

Emphasis is placed on empowering low income workers to resolve disputes in court. This is because regulatory agencies have difficulty enforcing the protections afforded by the Employment Standards Act ("ESA"). Also ESA remedies are inadequate compared to those obtainable in court - i.e. a worker due only 8 weeks of termination pay under the ESA is often able to win 8 months of termination pay in court. By facilitating access to the courts, [email protected] seeks to realize richer awards for poor workers, who would otherwise be denied access to justice, and create important legal precedents that favour the working poor.

Without wide-spread awareness and enforcement, workers' legal rights are illusory. The legal empowerment of low-income workers requires knowledge of the existence of legal rights, how rights may be enforced by the worker, and that free legal advice, brief service and representation are available if needed. Among the homeless, women, youth and visible minorities, the need for greater awareness, self-help aides, and legal assistance is experienced at even higher rates because these workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace abuses.

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