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Kingston pet-sitting business allegedly mismanaged, says former workers, client – Global News

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Editor’s Note: Wendy Waghorn no longer owns Kingston Pet Sitting Service.
At least two people who worked with a Kingston pet-sitting business have complained about the business owner, who they allege has withheld payment from them. Also, one of those workers, along with a former client, says the owner was allegedly negligent with a diabetic pet.
Hannah Markland worked with the Kingston Pet Sitting Service for just under a month over the summer. She says she is owed $500 from Wendy Waghorn, the owner of the business.
Waghorn on the other hand said that Markland was unreliable and consistently took time off, leaving her to scramble to find sitters for the pets.
Nevertheless, Waghorn admits to withholding some pay from people like Markland, who she says quit without two weeks’ notice.
Waghorn says she hires all her pet sitters as independent contractors, rather than taking them on as employees.
In the contract that Waghorn has her workers sign, there is a clause that says if workers do not give two weeks’ notice, they will not be given money that was owed to them.
Waghorn says the clause was put in to make sure pets aren’t suddenly left without someone to watch them.
“You spend a lot of money training, and then they quit. Well, this is their incentive to continue, to at least give me enough notice to find somebody else,” said Waghorn. “This is animals’ lives. When that girl Hannah quit, she made another girl do 24 pets in a day.”
There is a dispute between the two parties on whether or not Markland did give two weeks notice. Markland says she did, but Waghorn claims it was only after Markland quit and found out she wouldn’t be paid for hours she had already worked that she gave her two weeks.
When asked whether she had ever checked the legality of her contract and specifically the clause that demands two weeks notice, Waghorn says she wasn’t sure.
Kingston labour lawyer Jessica Greenwood from Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne and Yazbeck law offices says she often sees people listed as independent contractors who should actually be hired on as employees.
“Even when the parties, the employers and the employee, or the two parties to the contract agree that its a independent contract situation, that’s not always the case,” said Greenwood.
“Frequently, we will see employers calling what are actually employees independent contractors to avoid things like vacation pay, having to pay EI premiums and CPP premiums, and things like that.”
According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, independent contractors do not fall under the Employment Agency Act, but simply being called an independent contractor does not mean someone is not an employee.
“Some factors to consider include how much control the person has over their activity, whether they provide their own equipment or hire their own helpers, and how much financial risk must be taken by the person and how much profit the person can make,” from a written statement provided by the media team at the Ministry of Labour.
For Greenwood, certain aspects of the Kingston Pet Sitting Service contract seem suspect.
“The non-payment for work being performed is a really problematic term in this contract. From some of these circumstances of these employees,” Greenwood said, “their terms of employment are imposed by the employers. Those things lead to the impression that those people are deemed employees.”
Along with the nonpayment complaints from workers, a former client, Charlene Whelan, who hired Kingston Pet Sitting Service to watch her diabetic cat, says no one was sent to take care of her animal for three days.
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“It makes you very kinda leery, you know, trying to trust somebody to look after you pets,” said Whelan. “They’re kind of like your kids.”
Bronwyn Moore had been working with Waghorn’s company for a few months before she was sent to meet Whelan and her cat on June 4 for a consultation. In emails provided to Global News by Waghorn, it’s clear Moore says the cat will need to be taken care of from June 6 to June 9, and that the animal needed to be fed and given insulin shots twice a day.
Whelan says when she came back from her trip on June 9, it was evident that no one had been in to take care of the cat at all.
In screenshots from text messages sent between Waghorn and Moore after Whelan returned home, Waghorn hurriedly tells Moore to go check on the cat, because as she wrote, “I think I legit may have killed a cat.”
When Waghorn found out Whelan’s cat had survived the three days without food or medication, Waghorn tells Moore not to mention the incident to the client. Moore then protests, saying she wants to tell the client in case they need to bring the animal to a veterinarian.
When asked about the incident, Waghorn initially blamed Moore, saying she should have known to go take care of the cat. But in an email exchange provided to Global News by Waghorn, she tells Moore she is not scheduled for the days Whelan’s cat needed care.
In the end, Waghorn said it was misstep on both their parts.
“It was a miscommunication between Bronwyn and I,” said Waghorn. “She should have said to me, ‘How come that’s not in my schedule?’ We’re human; mistakes do happen. They don’t happen a lot, but they happen.”
Moore claims that after the incident with Whelan’s cat, Waghorn never scheduled her for another pet-sitting shift. She also said she is owed $350, and that Waghorn blocked her attempts to communicate with her.
When asked about firing Moore, Waghorn answered in an email:
“Independent contractors cannot be ‘fired’ if there is no work for them then there is no work.”
As for the money she’s owed, Waghorn confirmed this, but said she had tried to pay Moore twice, and dismissed any wrongdoing.
“This is about a lady that is seeking revenge on a small business for no other reason than she is upset.”
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