The Canada Labour Code is federal statute which regulates employment standards for union and non-unionized employees who work in a federally regulated industry such as broadcasting, banking, airlines, inter-provincial trucking companies, telecommunications companies and the postal service, among others.
The Labour Code allows employees who have worked for at least 12 consecutive months to make an unjust dismissal complaint, which is usually faster and less expensive than proceeding through the court process. The Labour Code also sets out the minimum payments that must be made to dismiss a federally regulated employee.
Ontario Employment Standards Act Complaint
Generally, each province has a statutory complaint mechanism available for claims that an employer has contravened the applicable employment standards legislation.
In Ontario, for example, the Ministry of Labour enforces the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000. Employees are free to file complaints for any alleged violation of the Act, including failure to pay termination and severance pay, reinstatement after a leave of absence, overtime pay, vacation pay, hours of work and eating periods, payment of wages, reprisals and public holidays. Where a complaint is filed, a Ministry representative will investigate the matter and may request that the parties involved attend a mini-hearing known as a fact finding meeting. At this meeting, a decision may be rendered. If one of the litigants disagrees with the decision of the Ministry representative, they may file an appeal to the Ministry of Labour, where they have the right to a full hearing before a tribunal.
Employees should be careful about filing Employment Standards Act complaints where they also have a claim for wrongful dismissal. Generally speaking, an employee is not entitled to have both an ESA claim and wrongful dismissal claim in the courts for the same subject matter. As the Ministry of Labour can only enforce the statutory minimum payments under the ESA, an employee who has a wrongful dismissal claim would be well advised to bring the matter in the courts, as their potential damage recovery will be much greater.
Human Rights Complaints
The Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) and the Canadian Human Rights Act protect employees against discrimination in the workplace. Employees who have been subject to discrimination or harassment based on personal characteristics such as, race, age, illness and disability, place of origin and religious beliefs, among other grounds, have the ability to make a statutory complaint against their employer and other individuals who may have been involved.
The Labour Relations Act and Duty of Fair Representation
Unionized employees are represented by a trade union and are generally unable to sue their employers in court. Instead, unionized employees must follow the guidelines set out in the collective agreement, which is a written agreement addressing the employment relationship between the employer, union, and employees. Where a unionized employee alleges that he or she has been treated by their union in an arbitrary, discriminatory or bad faith matter, a complaint may be filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Read our employment law articles about Statutory Complaints for more information.