Friday, July 12, 2024

Burnaby gas station owner fined $60,000 for exploiting Indian worker’s immigration status

An Indo-Canadian gas station owner has been fined $60,000 after a human rights tribunal found that he took advantage of an Indian worker’s precarious immigration status.

Kuldip Singh, owner of Husky gas station in Burnaby, withheld Harika Kasagoni’s overtime pay for two years and accused her of lying about an injury, CBC News reported.

She had filed a WorkSafeBC claim for her injury, which angered Singh, who then ended up firing her from the job, which was essential for her to obtain permanent residency status.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal heard that Kasagoni, then 23-years-old, came to Canada in 2013 from a rural village in India with hopes to further her education and settle in the country.

In November 2013, Kasagoni secured an open work permit and began working part time for Singh at a Husky gas station.

Initially, she was a “customer service representative” earning $10.25 per hour.

However, by January 2014, she advanced into a position as a full-time supervisor. In 2015, Singh, who called her an ‘excellent and honest employee’, agreed to support her application for permanent residency through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) for which he referred her to an immigration consultant.

Kasagoni alleges that, in addition to his own fees, the Immigration Consultant charged her $6,500 in cash to pay Singh for his support.

In December 2016, Kasagoni fell and injured herself.

When she reported to her doctor that the fall had happened at work, he referred her to WorkSafeBC, which accepted her claim.

Singh did not believe that Kasagoni’s fall had happened at work, and said she was lying in order to access WorkSafeBC benefits.

In her complaint, Kasagoni said that Singh discriminated against her in her employment by underpaying her, harassing her about her disability-related claim with WorkSafeBC, terminating her employment, and forcing her to pay Singh $6,500 in support of her PNP application.

She also said that it was discrimination based on her race, colour, ancestry, and place of origin because Singh took advantage of her vulnerability as a newcomer to Canada with a precarious immigration status.

Singh said he treated Kasagoni well throughout her employment but ultimately lost trust in her when he determined that she had lied about her fall. In addition, he denied terminating Kasagoni’s employment, and said she simply never returned to work.

“As a newcomer to Canada, Kasagoni was not familiar with employment laws and minimum standards. She trusted Singh and counted on him. Singh knew this,” tribunal member Devyn Cousineau wrote in her written decision.

“While this may seem like a nice sentiment, it can create conditions for abuse in an employment context, as I find it did here. It can allow employers to impose obligations on employees out of a sense of obligation, gratitude, or debt, outside of the contractual exchange of labour for pay,” Cousineau added.

The tribunal ordered Singh to pay Kasagoni nearly $25,000 in compensation for lost wages, including the wages that she would have earned working regular full-time hours at the gas station if her employment had continued until December 2018, two years after her fall.

As a result of the end of her employment, the PNP withdrew its support for Kasagoni’s permanent residency.



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