Coquitlam nail salon must pay former employee for nearly 100 hours of work after failed appeal

A Coquitlam nail salon will have to pay its former employee after its appeal to B.C.’s Employment Standards Tribunal was dismissed on Oct. 20.

The appeal was submitted by Thuy Hoang, the former sole director of Coquitlam Nails Inc., after a provincial investigator determined the business had failed to pay wages, overtime and vacation pay.

Additional fines totalling $1,500 were issued to the business for failing to pay wages on a semi-monthly basis, pay all outstanding wages within 48 hours of firing an employee, and maintain a daily record of employee hours.

Hoang argued the investigation did not have a fair process, regarding the opportunity to respond and be heard by an impartial decision maker.

The tribunal, however, could find no basis for unfairness claims.

“The role of the tribunal is not to re-weigh the evidence and decide the merits of an original complaint,” the ruling stated.

The employee, Pegah Pazouki Ghouheh, filed a complaint to the Employment Standards Branch in June, 2022, after she was not paid for a month’s worth of work from the previous December.

At the time, Ghouheh was training to become a nail technician, and alleged she was fired after she refused to pay a security deposit to keep her job.

Hoang told the investigator she did not pay Ghouheh because she was not considered an employee or in training, but was simply observing until she started working as a technician in January.

According to Hoang, Ghouheh was fired at the end of January after it was discovered she was using her husband’s social insurance number to work as a student.

The investigator spoke with Hoang, a business receptionist and Ghouheh, the latter of whom provided text messages and payroll information sent by the employer.

It was determined that Ghouheh was working for the business, and entitled to 99.5 hours worth of wages, overtime and vacation pay.

Not enough information was gathered to determine if any gratuities were owed.

In her appeal, Hoang took some accountability for not paying the wages, and included email confirmation of payroll information which were already held by investigators.

However, she argued she is unable to afford the “unreasonable” fines and requested they be waived, stating she is no longer the director of the business and is now a stay-at-home mom.

In addition, Hoang submitted that her employees had agreed to monthly payments, and she had not paid outstanding wages within 48 hours of termination due to the business’ accounting practices.

She said she did not keep track of Ghouheh’s hours because she was under a training agreement for no pay.

The tribunal, however, found that Hoang’s appeal did not raise any obvious issues of bias with the process, and noted they were provided an opportunity to provide information to the investigator.

They added Hoang was provided detailed explanations as to why the penalties were being levied.

“The appellant asks that the penalties imposed be waived, essentially on a compassionate basis because she is no longer a director of the employer and is now unemployed,” the tribunal stated.

The ruling, however, noted the fines were never levied on Hoang personally, and there is no basis to waive the fines.

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch