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Protecting Employees

  • ISBN: 1-4249-1295-4
  • Issued: April 2008
  • Revised: January 2019
  • Content last reviewed: January 2019

See also: Ontario's Family Medical Leave | Role of the Ministry of Labour | Filing an Employment Standards Claim | Disclaimer

The Employment Standards Act, known as the ESA, is a law that sets minimum standards for workplaces in Ontario.

If you are protected by the ESA, your employer cannot:

  • intimidate you
  • fire you
  • suspend you
  • reduce your pay
  • punish you in any other way, or
  • threaten any of these actions, because you asked about or asked for your ESA rights.

My employer says I am not covered under the ESA. Is this true?

If you work in Ontario, you are probably protected by the ESA. The ESA does not cover federal employees and a few employees in other special categories. There are exceptions and special rules for some employees under the law.

Contact the Ministry of Labour to find out how you are protected by the ESA.

What are my rights?

There are many rights covered by the ESA, including:

  • hours of work
  • minimum wage
  • overtime pay
  • payment of wages
  • public holidays and vacation
  • sick leave
  • family responsibility leave
  • bereavement leave
  • family caregiver leave
  • family medical leave
  • critical illness leave
  • domestic or sexual violence leave
  • pregnancy and parental leave
  • notice of termination
  • notice of termination of assignment (applies to assignment employees of a temporary help agency)

For more information about your rights under the ESA, contact the Ministry of Labour.

I was punished for asking for my rights. What can I do?

If you think your employer punished you for asking about or asking for your ESA rights, contact the Ministry of Labour as soon as possible.

Ministry staff can help you understand your rights, answer your questions and investigate your complaint. Your employer cannot punish you for talking to the Ministry of Labour about your rights.

NOTE: Unionized employees should talk to their union representative before contacting the Ministry of Labour if they think their rights have been violated.

What will I need?

Before contacting the Ministry of Labour, try to collect any information related to your job and employer, such as pay stubs, that may help explain your problem.

How can the Ministry of Labour help?

If your employer punished you for asking about or asking for your rights, an employment standards officer can order your employer to compensate you or give you your job back. The officer can also order your employer to pay you any wages you are owed.

For example:

Maria found out she is being paid less than minimum wage. She asked her manager why. A few days later, Maria was fired.

Maria thought she was fired for asking about her ESA rights. She called the Employment Standards Information Centre and explained her problem. The Ministry of Labour staff helped her understand her rights. Maria filed a complaint and it was investigated.

Maria's employer was ordered to give her back her job, pay her the wages she was owed and increase her pay to minimum wage.

The Ministry of Labour can also charge your employer with an offence, including a ticket. If convicted, your employer may be fined or sent to jail, or both.

Should I file a claim?

Contact our Employment Standards Information Centre. After speaking with us, you may decide to file a claim.

A claim is a written explanation of your complaint, which also has important information about you, your job and your employer.

Claim forms are available on the Ministry of Labour website at Filing a claim is free.

For more information

If you have questions about the ESA, call the Ministry of Labour's Employment Standards Information Centre at 416-326-7160, toll free at 1-800-531-5551, or TTY 1-866-567-8893.

Information on the ESA can also be found at the Employment Standards section of the Ministry of Labour's website.

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help employees and employers understand some of the minimum rights and obligations established under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the ESA or regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation. Although we endeavor to ensure that the information in this resource is as current and accurate as possible, errors do occasionally occur. The ESA provides minimum standards only. Some employees may have greater rights under an employment contract, collective agreement, the common law or other legislation. Employers and employees may wish to obtain legal advice.

Employment Standards Information Centre
416-326-7160 (Greater Toronto Area) 
1-800-531-5551 (toll free Canada-wide) 
1-866-567-8893 (TTY for hearing impaired)