Arthur Moore was found guilty of contempt Tuesday for ignoring court orders to halt his asbestos and drywall removal business in Metro Vancouver.
The B.C. Supreme Court case heard Moore exploited young recovering addicts and did not provide employees with adequate training or equipment.
Rod Ludlow, who worked for Moore, said he and his co-workers had no idea that their lives were in danger.
"None of us knew it was going on," he said outside court. "He would take a house that was full of asbestos. He would take the paperwork off the customer.
"Normally it would cost $20,000 to $30,000 to do the house legally right. He would charge $2,800 to $3,500. And they would pay it."
Lee Loftus of the BC Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council said the sentence is inadequate for someone who put people's lives in danger.
"This should be a criminal matter," he said. "There are provisions within the Criminal Code to charge employers that put their employees at undue risk.
But he said the ruling still sets a precedent for other business owners who willingly put workers' lives at risk.
Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, agreed that the punishment is not fitting for someone who exposed people to conditions that may cause asbestos-related diseases.
"Every employer has a duty to make work safe," he said. "When they fail to do so through negligence or intent, the consequences must be real."
Lawyers for WorkSafeBC asked for six months to a year but after the sentencing said they were pleased with the sentence. (News1130, The Canadian Press)