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Ontario woman paid below minimum wage for months reaches $16,000 settlement with former employer

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An Ontario worker who was paid below minimum wage for six months has received more than $16,000 in a settlement with her former employer following an investigation into her case.

“Very happy,” Brampton, Ont. woman Statinder Grewal said when reached by phone Wednesday. “I’m so lucky I got the money.”

In the officer’s Feb. 10 decision, obtained by CTV News Toronto, it states the employer, Chat Hut, agreed to pay Grewal $16,495.29.

Grewal filed an employment standards claim in November 2021 to the Ministry of Labour alleging she was owed more than $18,000. It said she worked for the restaurant as a server, cook, cleaner and cashier between June and December 2020.

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Grewal said Chat Hut offered to hire her and provide a letter to help secure her permanent residency, which is why she agreed to work for $60 a day, far below the $14 minimum wage at the time.

The claim said after about six weeks, her pay was increased to $100 a day for 12 hours of work, and received $8 an hour after that if she worked longer the same day. 

Grewal eventually quit.

Grewal said the settlement means a lot because she worked hard for the money. She said she remains in Canada on a work permit and hopes to stay in the country.

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“I went through a lot of things, because it’s very sad,” she said. “I gave my whole life for six months to them.”

Grewal said she initially came to Canada as an international student and sought employment as a means to stay in the country. 

She said she asked her employer while still employed to be paid minimum wage, but was denied. She said the situation became so difficult she at one point contemplated suicide. 

When CTV News Toronto reached Chat Hat owner Ajay Kalra by phone Wednesday, he declined to comment on the settlement. 

CTV News Toronto has reached out via email and phone to the employer’s lawyer but has not yet received a reply.

FIGHTING FOR GREWAL’S WAGES

Naujawan Support Network (NSN) helps international students and workers and assisted Grewal with her claim. 

Before the settlement was reached, NSN and Grewal also protested outside the Brampton’s restaurant location and spoke with journalists to raise awareness.

NSN member Parmbir Gill said the group is aware of thousands of people in similar situations across Canada and called the Grewal’s settlement “a clear victory.”

“I think it shows that international students and young immigrant workers are one another’s best defence against exploitation,” Gill told CTV News Toronto.

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Gill said one important step workers can take to protect themselves is to keep track of hours and wages, which Grewal did.

“We have to be united,” Grewal said. “Because when my case started, I thought I was alone.”

“Real justice would look like it not occurring in the first place, but I think this is something all working class people have to learn,” Gill said. 

“Even your basic rights at work are not going to be respected if you’re not willing to enforce them.”

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