If you complain about harassment or safety issues in your workplace, what protection is available to you?
The Ontario Labour Relations Board will reinstate you, presumptively, or, alternatively, award you lost wages and pay if your employer punishes you for doing so by terminating you or taking away your worktime.
In a recent case, a restaurant employee had made a complaint about harassment in the workplace to her employer. She also asked the employer for a copy of its workplace harassment policy, which is now mandatory in Ontario under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”).
The employer did not provide the employee with a copy of its harassment policy.
After the employee made a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, it began an inspection under the OHSA. The employer told the employee it wanted her to meet with its ‘health and safety committee’, to which she agreed. She again requested a copy of the policy – it was not provided.
The employer did not contact her again and, what’s more, cut her employment time after the Ministry inspection was initiated, even though the employee had requested several times to be scheduled to work.
Therefore, the employee filed a reprisal complaint under the OHSA with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The employer failed to attend the hearing, not surprisingly.
The Board held that, at least in part, the employer’s reason for not scheduling the employee to work was because she had raised health and safety issues in the workplace.
The Board said: “The presumptive remedy for a reprisal in contravention of section 50 of the Act is to reinstate the discharged employee and to provide the employee with lost wages from the date of the discharge up until the date of the reinstatement subject to mitigation.”
Ultimately, the employee told the Board she did not wish to return to work, given the treatment she had received.
As a result, the Board decided that, “Given the manner in which her employment ended, I do not find that reinstatement would be a viable remedy in the circumstances. I agree with counsel that, in the place of reinstatement, Ms. Thompson is entitled to damages for loss of employment.”
In the end, the Board awarded the employee damages of $7,437.16 for “loss of employment and loss of wages”.
Thompson v 580062 Ontario Inc (Slainte Irish Gastropub), 2015 CanLII 76907 (ON LRB)
Jason Ward – WARDS PC LAWYERS
This WARDSPC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.
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