Complaint labour standards
Official title: Information on labour standards - 1A – Filing a complaint.
Part III of the Canada Labour Code establishes and protects the rights of workers in federally regulated enterprises to fair and equitable conditions of employment. The provisions of the Code set labour standards for employment conditions. They also offer a way for employees to recover unpaid wages and ensure other labour standards are upheld in their workplace.
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1. Before a complaint is filed
Consider the following:
First, if you are a unionized employee covered by a collective agreement which provides for a grievance procedure, please contact your union representative to discuss your complaint. In most instances, the Labour Program is not authorized to handle your complaint.
Second, if possible, approach your employer to try to resolve the issue. It is possible for parties to reach a settlement before Labour Program inspectors make their final determination during a complaint investigation.
2. To file a complaint
Download the Labour Program complaint form from the Service Canada website.
Step one: File within six months
You have six months in which to file a complaint to the Labour Program.
If your complaint is related to unpaid wages or other amounts, it must be filed within six months from the last day your employer was required to pay these amounts.
If your complaint is related to another labour standard violation, it must be filed within six months from the day on which the subject matter of your complaint arose.
Step two: Fill in the form
You need to provide your name, address and contact information, as well as the name, address, and contact information of your employer.
Next, you need to provide your work history with the employer and details about your complaint. This includes selecting whether your complaint is related to wages or other amounts owed such as termination and severance pay, or another labour standards violation.
Step three: Photocopy records
If you have any documents or records to support your complaint, you should copy and attach them to your complaint form.
If your complaint is related to wages or other amounts owed, your records should cover the period of 24 months prior to the complaint.
Step four: Submit
Once you have completed the form and attached any supporting documents, please submit these to the Labour Program office nearest you. To locate a Labour Program office, please refer to the Regional Office listing.
3. What happens next?
You will receive a Letter of acknowledgement from the Labour Program which confirms that your complaint has been received and is being reviewed.
The inspector will determine whether you and your employer fall under the Code’s jurisdiction and whether a violation of labour standards has occurred. A Preliminary letter of determination will be sent to you and your employer with the inspector’s findings.
If you or your employer disagree with the findings, there will be an opportunity to provide more information to the inspector. A Labour Program inspector will review any new information submitted before a final determination on your complaint is made.
If a violation is found, a Letter of determination will be sent to your employer requesting that the violation be corrected. For example, they may be asked to pay wages owed to you or to implement appropriate workplace practices.
If the employer is found to be in compliance with the Code, you will be notified of the inspector’s findings in writing. You may also subsequently be issued a Notice of unfounded complaint, which advises you that the employer is in compliance, including reasons why, and that the inspector’s decision can be appealed.
4. Recovery of wages
If the Labour Program determines that wages or other amounts are owed, and the employer agrees to pay, you may receive the monies directly from your employer or through the Labour Program. If you disagree with the amount paid, a Notice of voluntary compliance may be issued, which will allow you to request a review.
If your employer refuses to pay the wages or amounts owed, the Labour Program will issue a Payment Order to the employer or the director of the corporation for the amounts owed. A Payment Order to recover wages will cover 24 months before the complaint was received or before the last day of employment.
5. To request a review
When a Payment Order is issued, you, your employer or the director(s) of the corporation has the right to request a review within 15 days after the Payment order was served on them. The employer or the director must provide written reasons and submit to the Labour Program the outstanding amount of the Payment order, including the administrative fee, which will be held in trust pending the outcome of the review.
If you disagree with a decision to issue a Notice of unfounded complaint or a Notice of voluntary compliance, you may request a review of that decision within 15 days after the notice was served on you. You must provide written reasons for your request for review.
6. Administrative review process
A Labour Program official will assess the review request. Upon completion of the review, the parties will be informed whether the inspector’s decision is confirmed, varied or overturned.
7. Appeal process
Following a review, if the parties disagree and there is a question of law or jurisdiction, the case may be appealed to a referee. At the discretion of the Labour Program, depending on the complexity of the issues, some cases may be referred directly to a referee to be heard.
The referee may confirm, vary or overturn, in whole or in part, the Notice of unfounded complaint or Payment order originally issued by the inspector. The referee may also award costs in the proceedings. If a party involved in the hearing fails to comply with the referee’s decision, a request may be made to the Minister to file the referee’s order in the Federal Court of Canada.
Once the order is registered in this Court, the Labour Program will no longer be involved in the case.
8. The price of non-compliance: Costly fines
When a Payment order to employer is issued, an administrative fee of $200.00 or 15% (whichever is greater) will be added to the wages or other amounts owed.
In cases of summary conviction, a corporation that has violated federal labour standards will be fined up to $50,000 for the first offence, up to $100,000 for the second offence, and up to $250,000 for the third (and any subsequent) offences.
An employer that is not a corporation will be fined up to $10,000 for the first offence, up to $20,000 for the second offence, and up to $50,000 for the third (and any subsequent) offence.
Upon summary conviction of a serious offence of Part III of the Code, an employer will be fined up to $250,000 for the first (and any subsequent) offences. A serious offence includes failure by an employer to: offer workers’ compensation coverage; insure any long-term disability plans they may offer to employees; and comply with group termination requirements.
The fine for an employer’s failure to keep or make records available to Labour Program inspectors is $1,000 per day that the violation continues. The fine for failing to comply with an order to pay wages or to reinstate an employee is also $1,000 per day that the violation continues.
A repeat offence will be determined if the first offence occurred within the preceding five years.
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