Harassment & Discrimination should never be tolerated. When it comes to terminating employees, it should be clear that you can’t fire someone for illegal reasons. Employees are generally safeguarded from retaliatory termination for the following types of legally protected activity.
Reporting Illegal Conduct
An employee who believes an employer has done something illegal has the right to report the situation internally or to authorities, such as reporting discrimination or harassment to management or file a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) pursuant to the Human Rights Code or the Ministry of Labour - Health and Safety (MOL) pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
If you reported to your employer that you were being harassed at work and your employer did not make sure an investigation appropriate in the circumstances was conducted; or that your employer does not have a workplace harassment policy or program; or that your employer did not provide training on the workplace harassment policy and program, you have a right and an obligation to report such problems to the Ministry of Labour – Health and Safety.
In Ontario, the Human Rights Code (The Code) expressly prohibits employment-related discrimination and harassment because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability. So, naturally if the harassment you complained of involved a violation to the Code, you will want to file the complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Do note that you can only file a complaint based on the same fact to one tribunal. So if you have filed a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, you cannot at a later time, also file a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Exercising Employee Rights
An employer can’t retaliate against an employee for practicing his or her employment law rights, such as:
Requesting reasonable accommodations based on the employee’s personal need due to necessity, unless it creates undue hardship on the part of the employer.
Pursuing sick or medical leave rights, and not be discriminated against for disability discrimination.
Filing a Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) claim in case of a job related illness or injury.
Refusing to obey an order reasonably believed to be discriminatory or to work in an unsafe and unhealthy working environment that has health and environmental hazards.
Participating in An Official Investigation
Employees are entitled to participate in an investigation, hearing or lawsuit involving the employer. Whether providing information to health and safety investigators or being summoned to testify against the company in a wrongful dismissal proceeding involving claims of office harassment, employees must not be penalized for this involvement.
What Are the Legal Options if you have been fired in retaliation to complaint?
You can file a claim to the HRTO or to the MOL if you believe you were terminated in retaliation for complaining about it. If you believe that you were fired in retaliation, you may also want to file a wrongful dismissal lawsuit seeking compensation not just for monetary damages, but also for the emotional pain and suffering such experiences have caused you, if you believe that the compensation offered by HRTO or MOL would be insufficient. Do note that time after time after time, the Court requires medical evidence proving actual damage be provided by the employee to substantiate a claim of emotional pain and suffering.
Click here to learn where to sue for a case of wrongful dismissal, and a case of office harassment and discrimination. Click here to learn where to sue for a case of constructive dismissal, and a case of office harassment and discrimination.
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