166020 Canada Inc. v. M.N.R. – TCC: Workers in “Magie Seal” business not employees

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166020 Canada Inc. v. M.N.R. (July 15, 2014 – 2014 TCC 220) was an EI appeal dealing with whether the workers of 166020 Canada Inc. were engaged in insurable employment:

[3] Mr. Panos Christodoulopoulos is the president and one of the shareholders of the Appellant who carries on business under the name of “Magie Seal”. The Appellant is in the business of providing fabric and leather protection treatment (the “treatment”) to the customers of large retail furniture stores such as Brault & Martineau and Leon’s Furniture. The clients of the Appellant are the furniture stores and not the purchasers of the furniture since there is no privity of contract between the purchasers and the Appellant.

[4] The Appellant engaged the Workers, who were considered as self‑employed technicians, to actually apply the treatment. There was no written agreement between the Appellant and the Workers but it is clear that both the Appellant and the Workers considered that they were independent contractors and not employees.

[5] When a store like Leon’s or Brault & Martineau sells furniture, it will offer the treatment to the purchaser as part of the bargain for an additional cost. If the purchaser purchases the treatment, the furniture store will then contract the Appellant to apply the treatment to the new furniture. The Appellant will then contact the purchaser and make an appointment to have the treatment done. The Appellant will then contact one of the Workers by fax or email in order to have the Worker actually apply the treatment. The Appellant had about 15 Workers doing this work during the period. Each Worker had an assigned territory. The Workers are given a number of appointments to handle per day and the Workers are responsible for arranging their own schedule any way they want to attend the purchaser’s residence and apply the treatment. The Worker can accept as many or as few appointments as he/she wants. It is expected that the work will be performed between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The Workers are completely on their own as to when to perform the work but it is expected that the work will be done on the day that the purchaser is expecting it to be done since the purchaser will likely stay home all day to receive the Worker. If the Worker is not able to perform the work on the day scheduled, then it is up to the Worker to contact the purchaser and reschedule the work.

The court examined all of the well-known tests and concluded, inter alia, that there was little evidence of control exercised over the workers, they were provided with no tools other than the liquid spray product and leather cream, they were free to hire helpers, they were responsible for providing an automobile at their own expense, their profit and loss depended on their own efficiency and organization and they were not integrated into the appellant’s operations in any meaningful way:

[54] The degree of integration of workers into a business has to be assessed from the standpoint of the workers, not that of the business: 671122 Ontario Ltd. v. Sagaz Industries, supra, at 1003. Doing so from the standpoint of the business nearly always leads unavoidably to the conclusion that the Worker’s activities were organized and programmed to suit the principal and overriding activity of the business. In other words, the Worker’s activities will always appear to be integrated into the business. In the instant case, the Workers were not integrated into the Appellant’s business operations in any meaningful way. They could be dismissed at any time and immediately replaced by others. The worker did not have an office at the Appellant’s business premises.

As a result the court concluded that none of the workers were engaged in insurable employment and allowed the appeal.