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Can my employer punish me if I act on my rights?

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Can my employer punish me if I act on my rights?
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CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)

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Can my employer punish me if I act on my rights?
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Reviewed: 
February 23, 2018
Answer

There are laws that say your employer can't punish you for acting on your rights.

Your rights in the Employment Standards Act

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) says that your employer can't punish you or threaten to punish you for:

  • asking about your rights as a worker
  • asking your employer to respect those rights
  • making a claim to the Ministry of Labour
  • giving information to an Employment Standards Officer from the Ministry of Labour

So, for example, it's against the law for your employer to punish you for:

Your human rights

Ontario's Human Rights Code says that your employer can't punish you or threaten to punish you for:

  • asking about your human rights
  • asking your employer to respect those rights
  • applying to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • refusing to do something that goes against another person's human rights

If this happens to you, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice and information.

The Centre helps people file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and, in some cases, represents people who are making claims at the Tribunal.

You can also check out the Centre's online tool Can We Help You? to see if you might be able to make a claim.

Your right to safety at work

Both the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Canada Labour Code say that your employer can't punish you because you ask them to follow safety rules.

To learn more about this, see Can I be punished for complaining about safety issues at work?

Things employers do to punish people

If you ask your employer about your rights or do something else related to your rights, your employer can't use that as a reason to:

  • fire you
  • suspend you
  • discipline you
  • transfer you to another position
  • reduce or change your hours
  • not give you a raise or other benefits
  • harass or threaten you
  • intimidate or bully you

If your employer does any of those things, and you think it's because you asked or did something else about your rights, this is called a reprisal. It's against the law.

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