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Reprisals

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) provides workers with rights and responsibilities. It prohibits employers from penalizing workers in reprisal for obeying the law or exercising their rights.

Under Section 50 of the OHSA, an employer cannot

  • dismiss (or threaten to dismiss) a worker
  • discipline or suspend a worker (or threaten to do so)
  • impose (or threaten to impose) any penalty upon a worker, or
  • intimidate or coerce a worker…

… because a worker has

  • followed the OHSA and regulations
  • exercised rights under the OHSA, including the right to refuse unsafe work
  • asked the employer to follow the OHSA and regulations.

A worker also cannot be penalized for

  • providing information to a Ministry of Labour inspector
  • following a Ministry of Labour inspector’s order, or
  • testifying at a hearing about OHSA enforcement
    • in court
    • before the Ontario Labour Relations Board
    • at a grievance arbitration, and
    • at a coroner’s inquest

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Workers

A worker who believes that the employer has reprised against him or her may file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). A unionized worker may choose to ask the union to file a grievance under the collective agreement or to seek its help in filing a complaint directly on the worker’s behalf with the OLRB.

Alternatively, a worker claiming to have been fired in an OHSA-related reprisal may consent to having a Ministry of Labour inspector refer the reprisal allegation to the OLRB, if

  • the allegation has not already been dealt with by arbitration, and
  • the worker has not filed a complaint to the OLRB.

The inspector will also provide copies of the referral to the employer, trade union (if any) and other organizations affected by the alleged reprisal. However, the Ministry of Labour will not act as the worker’s representative.

The Ministry of Labour will also investigate the health and safety concerns related to a reprisal complaint or referral.

The OLRB can look into a worker’s complaint or a referral from the Ministry of Labour and try to mediate a settlement between the workplace parties. If a settlement cannot be reached, the OLRB may hold a consultation or hearing. The OLRB may make orders to

  • remove or change any penalty the employer may have imposed
  • reinstate/rehire the worker, and/or
  • compensate the worker for related losses.

The OLRB will provide forms for filing reprisal complaints.

The Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) or the Toronto Workers’ Health & Safety Legal Clinic can provide workers with free advice on filing complaints and representation at mediations and hearings before the OLRB.

Employers

If there is an allegation of reprisal before the OLRB, it’s up to the employer to refute it. The Office of the Employer Adviser can provide free assistance and representation at mediations and hearings before the OLRB to employers with fewer than 50 employees. Also, employers can contact the Law Society of Upper Canada, which will put them in touch with a lawyer who may provide a free initial consultation.



Ontario Labour Relations Board

The Ontario Labour Relations Board is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that mediates and adjudicates employment and labour relations matters under Ontario statutes. Workers who believe their employer has penalized them because they have exercised their rights and responsibilities under the OHSA can file a complaint with the OLRB. There is no fee for this. Unions may file a grievance on behalf of members under the collective agreement or help member workers complain directly to the OLRB.

Ministry of Labour

The Ontario Ministry of Labour sets, communicates and enforces workplace standards related to occupational health and safety, employment rights and responsibilities, and labour relations. When workers allege that their employer has penalized them for exercising their rights and responsibilities under the OHSA, inspectors

  • investigate the workers’ occupational health and safety concerns, and
  • if warranted, act to address the health and safety concerns.

If a worker has been fired, inspectors may — with the worker’s consent — refer the worker’s description of the alleged reprisal to the OLRB and provide copies of the referral to the employer, the trade union (if any), and to any other organization affected by the alleged reprisal.

Laws

Contact Us

Health and Safety Contact Centre

Toll-free: 1-877-202-0008
TTY: 1-855-653-9260

  • Report incidents, critical injuries or fatalities.
    If this is an emergency call 911 immediately.
  • Workplace health and safety inquiries.
  • Report unsafe work practices.

Other ways to contact us

Workers

Office of the Worker Adviser

The Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) is an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The OWA provides free advice and assistance to non-union workers who have experienced reprisal under the OHSA. OWA staff can file applications to the Ontario Labour Relations Board and provide representation to workers at mediations and hearings.

  • 416-212-5335 or 855-659-7744 (toll-free)
  • Web Site

Toronto Workers' Health & Safety Legal Clinic

The clinic provides free information, legal advice and representation to low-income workers who face health and safety problems at work, including those who have been penalized for raising health and safety concerns.

Employers

Office of the Employer Adviser

The Office of the Employer Adviser (OEA) is an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The OEA provides free education, advice and representation to employers with fewer than 50 employees in responding to allegations of reprisal brought to the OLRB.

  • 416-327-0020 or 800-387-0774 (toll-free)
  • Web Site

Law Society of Upper Canada

The Law Society of Upper Canada has several services for finding professional legal help. The society can refer callers to a lawyer who may provide a free initial consultation.

  • 416-947-3330 or 800-668-7380 (toll-free)
  • Web Site