Enforcing Your Rights in the Canadian Workplace: When, Why, & How?

Employment law issues almost never start as legal issues. We have all dealt with day-to-day issues in the workplace which start out as small issues, but if left unchecked can grow into huge problems. Most people will work through day-to-day employment issues without speaking to a lawyer – as it should be. However, this far too often puts the power in the hands of your employer to trample on your rights as an employee, leaving you feeling powerless.

When?

Half your battle as an employee seeking to enforce your workplace rights is knowing precisely what those rights are. Employment standards, human rights, and occupational health and safety legislation contain huge volumes of detailed laws and regulations which exist purely for your protection and benefit in your employment relationship. Most employees wrongly assume that their employers and HR departments know and strictly adhere to these laws. However, that is often not the case. Many employers are shockingly ignorant about even their basic obligations to their employees. Employees who are dealing with day-to-day issues – even seemingly minor issues – would do well to arm themselves with the knowledge of their own legal rights, which can be researched online or received from a lawyer.

Why?

All Canadian employees should understand that for the most part, employment law is only enforced on a complaint basis. There are no general “check-ins” from the authorities on employment law compliance, except from infrequent and targeted occupational health and safety inspections. This means that, if you don’t raise red flags, nobody else will. Worse, not complaining can be taken as a sign of acquiescence, and could weaken your case in a subsequent legal battle.

Some employees worry about making waves in the workplace, and for that reason, keep their complaints silent. What many employees don’t know, however, is that employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against employees for making many types of employment standards, health and safety, and/or human rights complaints. Employers will often not take issues seriously until an employee lodges a formal complaint, but the effect of doing so can be so great that employers will often spend tens of thousands of dollarson investigations, for instance, of workplace harassment complaints.

How?

Your employer is the first line of defence against virtually all employment law issues. That means that it is up to you to raise such workplace issues first with your employer – even (and especially) before a it’s time for an employment lawyer to step in.

Generally, employees would do well to keep in mind the following:

  • Report early – don’t let issues get away from you. Address them proactively.
  • Report up to management, not to co-workers.
  • Put it in writing, so there is no doubt as to what the issue is, when it was reported, and to whom.
  • Escalate the issue when it’s not dealt with appropriately.
  • Keep doing your job. Never quit or threaten to stop working without legal advice. Enforcing your rights as an employee is not cause for discipline, but insubordination is.
  • Stay respectful. Continue to treat your employers and co-workers with the same dignity you would wish for yourself – especially when the respect is not reciprocated.
  • Consult legal advice if you’ve reached the end of the line with your employer’s complaint process, or you have any questions about your rights and obligations.

If you have been terminated, laid-off, or severed from your job contact the employment lawyers at Share Lawyers. Our experienced team of Employment Law lawyers can help. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless we win your case. Find out if you have an Employment Case!

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