Bryn Hendricks had just gotten out of the shower June 18 when he says he got an angry email from his boss at Rainbow High Travel, Liz Devine, accusing him of being incommunicado.
Rainbow High Travel is an LGBT-focused travel agency located in the Church-Wellesley Village. Along with informing travellers about the gay-friendliness of international locations, Rainbow High provides tour and travel packages, such as the RuPaul’s Drag Race cruise co-hosted by OUTtv.
Hendricks, who was contracted in late April to oversee social media for Rainbow High’s WorldPride travel packages website, had promoted blog posts and worked on press releases. But the relationship had turned sour, with Devine allegedly accusing Hendricks of not doing his job despite evidence he presented to the contrary.
Two days later, Hendricks emailed Devine asking for his paycheque, only to be told there wasn’t one. Hendricks claims that Rainbow High’s management owes him $2,550 in wages. And he’s not the only one. Three other former contract employees claim Rainbow High and Liz Devine owe them unpaid wages, while a fourth man, Alan Beck, claims he is owed $2,500 (US) that he loaned to Devine.
Hendricks, Richard Oakey, Wendy Limbertie and Bryen Dunn were all employed on a short-term contract basis in the weeks leading up to WorldPride to help Rainbow High publicize a number of travel packages for WorldPride. As part of his pay, Hendricks says, he was promised three tickets to the cruise.
Oakey, Limbertie and Hendricks filed in small claims court for their wages (Dunn says he plans to file his claim soon). Beck also filed a claim for the money he says he loaned Devine. Two of the cases are ongoing, while Oakey’s was resolved in a settlement conference in October. The results of the settlement cannot be made public.
All four had worked with Devine before; some even considered her a friend.
“I just got shafted here by somebody I’ve known for 20 years,” Oakey alleges. Limbertie and Hendricks had previously worked with Rainbow High in putting together material for a travel show held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto. Dunn was brought on last October to work on social media and marketing on a freelance basis.
While the employees were on good terms with Devine before WorldPride, they allege that there were indications that something was awry. Dunn said getting paycheques from the company was like “pulling teeth,” though in the end, he says, he always got them.
Limbertie, who was hired to do back-end work on the website, claimed that the workload was well above the expectations of the job and that deadlines changed constantly. She says that she ended her relationship with Rainbow High early, asking that she be paid for the work already completed — she says she received only half of what she was owed. Oakey was hired to continue the work, and he says that he, too, found communication from Devine to be unclear.
In responses filed with small claims court, Devine alleged that Hendricks did not show up for work for a few weeks and did not respond to attempts to contact him and that Limbertie did not perform the tasks asked of her.
While Beck was not employed by Rainbow High Travel, he does have a long business relationship with the company. He is the publisher of Columbia FunMaps, a US company that produces maps for tourists that Rainbow High has purchased advertising in. He has also sat with Devine on the board of directors of Travel Gay Canada for four years.
He alleges that Devine approached him in late June saying that she had a shortfall of $30,000 and that she needed his help to bridge it until WorldPride was over.
“So I asked her . . . how long she needed the money for and was I assured of getting it back,” Beck claims. “She said, ‘Oh yes, no problem. I just got to get over this hump.’” He alleges he wired her $2,500 in US currency shortly after and has had no luck collecting it back.
Shortly after all five tried to collect, Devine took a medical leave from the company. According to emails provided to Xtra by the claimants, an employee named Bob Bezanson took over some of her duties and continued communication with each ex-worker as they tried to seek their unpaid wages. Beck claims that Bezanson agreed to pay him back $100 per week but stopped after making a single payment. For the others, no money was forthcoming. Bezanson did not respond to Xtra’s requests for comment on this story.
After repeated requests for an interview, Devine emailed a statement to Xtra. “Rainbow High contracted different people to assist in the execution of various promotions, some of which were not as successful as anticipated,” she writes. “It would be inappropriate to discuss individual performance or outcomes, as we are in the midst of a settlement process to finalize some outstanding items.” She noted in the email that while WorldPride sales were mixed, the long-term benefit was that advanced sales for their winter programs were strong. She also said that she is slowly resuming her role as president of the company.
Employees at Rainbow High confirm that Devine is still president but would not say anything further.
None of the former contractors is happy to have had to go to court to be paid — Oakey told Xtra during one interview that he hates having these conversations — but it has become a necessary step, they all say.
You can contact HG Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org.