Toronto restaurant worker sounds alarm after not getting paid for 'trial' shift

Stacey Feldman desperately needed a job. She interviewed for a position at a restaurant and even completed a shift. She didn't get the position but she also wasn't paid for the trial, which according to Ontario's labour laws, is illegal.

Labour expert recommends workers make pay expectations clear with employers

Stacey Feldman said she wasn't paid after a trial shift at a local restaurant. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

Stacey Feldman was vying for a job as a front of house manager at a local restaurant and was ecstatic when she made it through the first interview and was asked to come in for a trial shift.

Feldman worked at the Bloor and Bathurst Streets area restaurant from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"I was a waitress and a dishwasher and a bartender ... you name it. It was the whole kit and caboodle," she told CBC News.

But a week later she received an email saying she didn't get the job. There was no mention of compensation. She was left wondering whether a try-out like hers didn't have to be compensated.

Feldman sent an invoice for the shift she worked, but that was ignored. Eventually, she pursued compensation in person and the situation was resolved.

'What they're doing is illegal'

At the same time, she had turned to social media where she asked if what happened to her was a normal hiring practice.

"A lot of people came back and said, 'What they're doing is illegal. I, too, have been involved in this situation,'" Feldman said.

Feldman identified the restaurant to CBC News but said she didn't want to publicly name it. She's sharing her story, she said, to inform others who might be encountering the same thing she is.

Deena Ladd, coordinator at The Workers' Action Centre, said she hears from a lot of people who try out for jobs and aren't paid. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

Deena Ladd, coordinator of The Workers' Action Centre, said stories like Feldman's are common, especially in the restaurant and cleaning industries. The centre's hotline often receives calls from people who wind up in the same position as Feldman.

Some people, Ladd said, "work maybe a couple days a week, sometimes even a month before the employer will say, 'Sure, I'll take you on but you know, that was training and I'm not paying you for training.'"

That practice, she said, is "completely against the law."

Unpaid workers can file complaints

Under Ontario's labour laws, all work — whether it's a trial or not — must be paid for unless it's an internship for a school course credit. 

Unfortunately, Ladd said, many people who don't get paid don't follow up with the businesses because it takes up time while they're devoting all of their efforts to finding a new job. 

Anyone who doesn't get paid can file a complaint with the labour ministry. The restaurant Feldman was given a trial at has two wage-related complaints filed against it with the ministry.

Ladd said her best advice is for everybody to make sure they have a clear arrangement with their employer. Workers should know, she said, "what the expectations are before you go do it and try to go back after the fact going, 'Hey, wait a second, I just worked the entire day and haven't been compensated.'"

Have you ever been asked to work trial shifts without being compensated? Contact to share your story.