Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Secretaries give Bay Street lawyers the finger ..... "Go .... yourselves!"

Caveman: "Jeezus!"
Which Finger to Give to Bay Street

McCague Borlack LLP is a major Bay Street law firm, with senior partners billing at $400/hr! The firm occupies two floors in the First Canadian Place office complex – ExchangeTower. Life is good for the lawyers at the firm; their money keeps rolling in at $400/hr. Often at a higher rate! Their secretaries are not so lucky. Secretaries at this firm earn 20 times less than these fancy Bay Street Lawyers. And secretaries are treated with the following degrading contempt: a finger printing program!

Now, the lawyers are about to fingerprint the secretaries! Why? Not for security reasons. No: The firm wants greater control and “productivity enhancement”—with the cost to be paid by workers’ dignity. This program unjustly smells bad.

These lawyers seek to implement a finger printing program, to take secretaries’ fingerprints to monitor their whereabouts. Secretaries will have to press their fingerprints on a machine when they leave their stations, and when they return. But at this firm lawyers and clerks do not; only the secretaries will be subject to this inhumane monitoring. Lawyers, clerks, paralegals, and management are totally exempt from this finger printing program!

At McCague Borlack the secretaries need to be tracked for their legal breaks, lunch break, arrival times, and quit times – by their personal fingerprints pressed onto machines to be installed all over the office. A swipe-card or a signature on a basic form could provide the same effect. But the lawyers have demanded fingerprints from the secretaries.

These lawyers are clever and callous. They have refused to put their demand in writing – to cover their tracks.Instead they arranged for a meeting last week with the secretaries, at which time the senior partner informed us of this new program to take our finger prints—without prior consultation or input from the secretaries.  Not one secretary agrees with this new program to take effect in a few weeks. The tracking hardware for this program has been arriving at the firm lately. And that is having a very chilling effect on the secretaries’ psyche.

Hitler used IBM punch-card technology in the 1930s to monitor the whereabouts of people he deemed undesirable. What if he had been somehow prevented from doing so? Maybe a few lives would have been able to avoid the horrors of the holocaust? Maybe. Of course, Hitler also claimed he needed the punch card computers for population census and economic management! What if the Nazis possessed today’s fingerprinting technology: tyranny and terror.

 Obviously the conduct of these lawyers does not approach that of the Nazis. Not even close. But we live in Canada—a  free nation with dignity for all. This callous demand for our fingerprint—to track our whereabouts—contradicts our most fundamental values. It is abusive and wrong. We must prevent this finger printing program. Maybe people, working together, can prevent this program of indignity. Maybe may hands can make justice work!. Maybe. We need your voice. Tell a friend you agree with us. Oppose Bay Street tyranny.

Abuse of power by a privileged few—and if you bill at $400.00/hr you’re one of the privileged few—is not new. But this demand for secretaries’ fingerprints—this abuse—is totally offensive to our Canadian values.  It’s an affront to the principles of privacy and basic humanity.

These lawyers’ conduct amounts to a complete display of nasty rudeness toward secretarial employees.

How would these lawyers feel if clients demanded that they provide their fingerprints – so that we can all track their breaks, lunch times, etc? I wonder what they would say if we demanded their fingerprints, so that the clients can verify if the time they bill a file is actually spent doing productive work on that file. Dockets can be faked; lawyers’ fingerprints cannot.Surely, the lawyers would howl at this suggestion; yet they now treat us with such utter contempt.

They want our digit fingerprints.  We need to give them a different finger. Needless to say, this is not only about us. This matter is about workers’ basic dignity. Please join us.

“The easiest way for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Call McCague Borlack at 416-860-8371 and speak to Human Resources, or email them at to express your disapproval.
  • Call the Law Society of Upper Canada, and inform them of your opinion. 
They can be contact by telephone at  416- 947-3300 or toll-free: 1-800-668-7380. Their web address is
  • Call your local MPP, and tell him/her about this travesty to workers’ dignity. Or the Minister of Labour:
Honourable Peter Fonseca, Ministry of Labour
14th Floor,  400 University Avenue
Toronto Ontario M7A 1T7
Telephone: 416-326-7600
Facsimile: 416-326-1449

  • Call the Insurance Bureau of Canada, and ask them to recommend their members (insurance companies) look into this travesty. Insurance Companies doing business with McCague Borlack should know about their lawyers’ conduct.  Can you imagine how the lawyers would feel, if one of their insurance clients decide to retain another law firm in the future? Most lawyers hate to lose paying clients; I have yet to meet a lawyer who doesn’t love money.
Contact Information

Address is 777 Bay Street, Suite 2400, P.O. Box 121, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2C8.
Telephone: 416-362-2031
Facsimile: 416-644-4961

Consumer information:
Telephone: 416-362-9528
Toll-free: 1-800-387-2880
Hours: Monday -Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Call the Ontario Privacy Commission, and mention our
Contact Information:

Telephone Toronto Area (416/local 905): (416) 326-3333
Long Distance: 1 (800) 387-0073 (within Ontario)
TDD/TTY: (416) 325-7539
FACSIMILE: (416) 325-9195
  • Contact the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and express your outrage at the violation of civil liberties.
Contact Information:

Canadian Civil Liberties Association
506 – 360 Bloor Street West,Toronto, Ontario M5S 1X1
Telephone: 416-363-0321
Facsimile: 416-861-1291
  • Call your local TV, newspaper, and radio station.
Get the word out about the Finger Campaign www.FingerCampaign.comThis Website will be operational shortly.

They asked for our fingerprints. Let’s give them the finger.
Bay Street law firm uses fingerprint technology to monitor comings and goings
Howard Borlack, founding partner at McCague Borlack, stands by a fingerprint scanner the law firm will use to track the comings and goings of its employees. (Vince Talotta/Toronto Star)

Niamh Scallan/Staff Reporter
Thursday, November 1, 2012

The days of sneaking out for three-hour lunch breaks will soon be over at a Bay Street law firm after it decided to install fingerprint-scanning technology to monitor its employees’ whereabouts.

Last month, McCague Borlack LLP announced plans for a revamped security system that will require staff (except lawyers who spend much of their time with clients) to clock in and out of the office with a finger swipe, keeping track of morning late-comers or those who try to jump-start their weekends by slipping out early on a Friday.

“Some people were abusing the system,” said founding partner Howard Borlack, 58. “We had people taking two to three hours for lunch and we had no way of knowing . . . . Some people were complaining.”

Other Toronto firms use security passes and honour systems to keep track of time worked. McCague Borlack, which focuses mostly on insurance law and employs about 200 people, has gone a step further with a system that not only provides office access via fingerprint, but also records employees as they enter and leave.

Come mid-November, when the system is expected to go live, the office will be equipped with finger-scanning machines supplied by Utah-based Qqest, Inc. that will keep a rolling record of the time spent in the office.

It’s mostly about improved building security, said Borlack, a way to keep track of people coming in and out of the office and streamlining administrative tasks. But with concern within the firm that some people are working less than 40 hours a week, the monitoring feature is “a huge bonus.”

“I know we have people who probably work less than 35 hours a week and if I listen to all the griping about certain people, I’m sure it’s well less than that,” Borlack said.

A boon for productivity-conscious managers, the plan has drawn outrage among a group of bloggers who identify themselves as McCague Borlack secretaries.

On their “Finger Campaign” website, the group has accused the firm of singling out secretaries and copy-room staff (by exempting some lawyers from the program), and called the system an “insult to our human dignity” that has had a “very chilling effect on the secretaries’ psyche.”

“The indignant fingerprinting program does not seek to address any security concerns at all,” one post read.

“It’s for the ‘mark ’em and track ’em’ purpose exclusively.”

Borlack admitted he “knew it would be uncomfortable” for some employees, but said he was careful to ensure the fingerprint technology would not violate privacy issues. He denounced the “Finger Campaign” as false, noting the new measure was intended mostly for security purposes and most staff seemed to be on board.

Rosa DeFrenza, a receptionist at the firm for five years, said she had not yet seen the “Finger Campaign” website, but said she thought the program could help to standardize work hours among her colleagues.

She added that diligent workers, herself included, had no reason to be concerned about the program. “No one should be working more than anyone else, no one should be working less than anyone else,” DeFrenza said.

But where to draw the line?

Carleton University law professor Michael MacNeil, who specializes in legal issues surrounding privacy and surveillance, said the fingerprinting system is just one example of the way workplaces are using technology to monitor and maximize productivity.

But legislation has lagged behind the trend, he said, leaving more questions than answers over what constitutes an invasion of privacy in the workplace.

“There’s a lot of it going on,” he said. “It’s an area where the law is underdeveloped.”


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