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When Wage Theft Was a Crime in Canada, 1935-1955

Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 54(3), Forthcoming

Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 45/2017

20 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2017 Last revised: 22 Jun 2017

Eric Tucker

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School; Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University (Visiting)

Date Written: June 15, 2017

Abstract

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

Tucker, Eric, When Wage Theft Was a Crime in Canada, 1935-1955 (June 15, 2017). Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 54(3), Forthcoming; Osgoode Legal Studies Research Paper No. 45/2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2987141

Eric Tucker (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada
416 736-5578 (Phone)
416 636-5736 (Fax)

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University (Visiting) ( email )

2121 Euclid Avenue, LB 138
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
United States

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