5 ways not to be exploited at a part-time job

Being a student employee doesn’t mean you don’t have rights.

Aziza Asat

When Kevin started work at a fast food restaurant chain in Halifax at the age of 18, he was surprised to find out how much he'd get paid. Transferring from the same restaurant in North Sydney, he was set to make 50 cents less per hour while doing the same work.

"When I inquired about why, I was told I was considered a 'needs-to-be-trained' or unskilled worker, which led to a wage discrepancy," says Kevin, who wasn't a student at the time but returns to Mount Saint Vincent University in the fall for his final year of a biology degree. We're aren't using his real name, because he worries about future employment.

Nova Scotia's minimum wage is $10.60 per hour, behind only Alberta, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario and Yukon Territory. However, someone who's been on the job for fewer than three months can be paid as an inexperienced worker and get $10.10 an hour.

"This negatively impacts students because a lot of them have summer jobs or part-time jobs and are entering new fields constantly," says Jon Grant, treasurer of the Canadian Federation of Students—Nova Scotia and vice-president of advocacy at Mount Saint Vincent University.

It's one of many legal and shitty ways businesses can screw over young workers. Pressing for what's right is a daunting task for the student juggling employment with school work and a social life. Bitching about the boss over beer is a lot easier.

The province's Guide to the Nova Scotia Labour Standard Code document is a great resource to clarify labour legislation and find out what rights non-union part-time employees have. But since it's written in legalese, here are just a handful of rights the disparaged part-time worker has in this province:

Hours worked are hours paid

Workers get paid at least the minimum wage for all time spent at the workplace. That includes if an employee is asked to show up at 7am before an 8am shift or stay late.

New threads can't break the bank

If the cost of a uniform is coming off the worker's pay cheque, it can't bump their hourly rate of pay below minimum wage. However, an employer can dock the cost of dry cleaning uniforms of wool or heavy material, even if it lowers the minimum.

Minimum means minimum

Employers can take deductions from pay for losses, shortages and damages, but can't knock gross wages below minimum wage. Also, there has be a clear agreement between employee and employer to authorize deductions.

No need for notice

Handing in two weeks' notice only applies if employed for two or more years. Only one week is required between three months and two years. Employees of fewer than three months don't need to give any notice.

Learn who to complain to

Anyone can file a complaint with Labour Standards. Valid complaints are assigned to a Labour Standards Officer who will first see if both sides want to reach a settlement. If not, the complaint moves into an investigation, then the officer makes a decision. Learn this process now, because it might be needed someday.

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