When Wage Theft Was a Crime in Canada, 1935-1955
Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 54(3), Forthcoming
20 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2017 Last revised: 22 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 15, 2017
In recent years the term “wage theft” has been widely used to describe the phenomenon of employers not paying their workers the wages they are owed. While the term has great normative weight, it is rarely accompanied by calls for employers literally to be prosecuted under the criminal law. However, it is a little known fact that in 1935 Canada enacted a criminal wage theft law, which remained on the books until 1955. This article provides an historical account of history of the wage theft law, including the role of the Royal Commission on Price Spreads, the legislative debates and amendments that narrowed its scope and the one unsuccessful effort to prosecute an employer for intentionally paying less than the provincial minimum wage. It concludes that the law was a symbolic gesture and another example of the difficulty of using the criminal law to punish employers for their wrongdoing.
Keywords: Criminal Law, Employment Law, Legal History, Enforcement
JEL Classification: K00, K14, K31, K42, K49, N4, N420
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation