What is an employment standards claim?
An employment standards claim is a complaint made to a government body based on the "minimum standards of employment" set by legislation. If you work in Ontario, the minimum standards of employment are set by the Employment Standards Act, and complaints are filed with the Ministry of Labour, unless you work in a federally regulated environment. Federally regulated industries, such as banks and transportation, are governed by the Canada Labour Code, and complaints must be filed with the federal Labour Program.
If you file an employment standards claim, you should be aware that you can only receive the minimum entitlements set out by legislation.
What are my employment standards rights?
Employment standards legislation sets very specific and detailed entitlements on the following:
Hours of work and overtime
Tips and gratuities
Lunch and rest periods
Layoffs and recall
Notice of termination and severance pay
Sick leave, maternity leave, and other leaves of absence
Vacation time and vacation pay
Why should I know my employment standards rights?
Many employees mistakenly assume that most or all employers are in strict compliance with employment standards. This is often not the case. Enforcement of employment standards is almost entirely complaint-based, meaning that your employment standards are not being protected unless you know your rights and are prepared to enforce them.
The government publishes comprehensive, easy-to-understand information on employment standards publicly on its website. Alternatively, if you have a specific question about your employment standards, you can speak to an employment lawyer.
How do I make an employment standards claim?
The process for making an employment standards claim is quite simple. Under the Employment Standards Act of Ontario, for instance, you can fill out a form online on the Ministry of Labour's website. That said, we caution anyone pursuing an employment standards claim to speak to a qualified employment lawyer first. The process itself may be simple, but you could be foregoing some of your entitlements at law by filing a claim.
Will my employer punish me if I make an employment standards claim?
If your employer disciplines, fires you, or otherwise takes any action against you for filing an employment standards claim, this is known as a "reprisal". Reprisal is prohibited by the Ontario Employment Standards Act. A claim for reprisal is, in itself, an employment standards claim. Victims of reprisal can be awarded a wide array of remedies, including significant damages for lost wages resulting from a termination.
Should I speak to an employment lawyer before filing an employment standards claim?
Yes. We absolutely recommend that you consult with an experienced employment lawyer prior to making a claim. Again, you can only obtain your minimum statutory entitlements with an employment standards claim. Generally speaking, employees are only permitted to choose one avenue of legal action. Taken together, that means that by filing an employment standards claim, you may be affecting your legal right to bring a civil action in court for anything beyond the bare statutory minimum. For instance, it is usually preferable to bring a legal action in court for wrongful dismissal and severance rather than pursuing your entitlements to termination and severance pay under the Employment Standards Act.
What can Hyde HR Law do for me?
Employment standards are a hot political issue and are subject to constant additions and amendments. The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts in employment standards. We offer expert advice on your minimum employment standards rights, how those entitlements compare to what you could recover in court, and the optimal method of pursuing your legal entitlements. We also have extensive experience representing our clients in employment standards claims matters, from negotiations through to hearings. Contact us today.