Interns, know where to go if you’re dealing with workplace violations

Career centres at U of T offer support
All U of T undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to book a one-on-one consultation at one of U of T’s career centres. DINA DONG/THE VARSITY
All U of T undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to book a one-on-one consultation at one of U of T’s career centres. DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

U of T’s career centres, which are available at UTSG, UTM, and UTSC, don’t just help students craft their résumés and prepare for job interviews. They can also advise students in internships or work placements on how to navigate difficult situations and help them determine the best course of action to take.

Violation of wage rights

In Ontario, a student who is over the age of 18 can earn a minimum wage of $14 per hour. Unpaid internships are illegal in Ontario unless they provide academic credit.

“At UTSC we see a few students every year who haven’t been paid, or don’t think they’ve been paid the right amount,” wrote Jen Davies, Manager of Career Development Services at the Academic Advising & Career Centre at UTSC in an email with The Varsity.

The “employment standards hotline and legal aid are good places to start,” she added. “Sometimes a letter from the lawyer is enough to scare the company into paying the people in the way they should have.”

Health and safety

According to Davies, if an internship is done for course credit, then “in the case of an injury, you should be covered by the University’s insurance policy.”

The Canadian Intern Rights Guide states that students in work placements are additionally covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In other cases, Davies suggested that students inquire about the company’s liability policy.

Dealing with discrimination or harassment

If an individual is discriminated against or harassed in the workplace, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development advises them to “keep a written record of when and where you were harassed, what was said or done, who said or did it and the names of any witnesses.”

In the case that the internship is for academic credit, Davies advised that the student turn to the course instructor and department for help first. If the placement is with a company, students are advised to speak with their manager and their human resources department.

At U of T, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office and the Sexual Violence Response and Prevention Office can offer supports for students in such situations, as well.

“[As the Career Centre] our goal is to coach you on how to have the manager and [human resources] conversations yourself as a learning opportunity,” Davies noted.  “We’ll also coach [you] on how to ask questions on the [Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office] hotline, or what to say to a Legal Aid professional if it has to go that far.”

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