Employment Standards

The rights of workers in Ontario are protected by a piece of legislation known as the Employment Standards Act (ESA). The ESA outlines standards regarding wages, maximum work hours, overtime pay, vacation, leaves of absence, and more. Employees cannot refuse or waive their rights under the ESA, and employers who fail to comply with the guidelines can face penalties, including prosecution.

The ESA is one among a number of federal and provincial legislations that affect the workplace. Others include the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Pay Equity Act, the Human Rights Code, and more. Employment rights may likewise be protected by common law, which is judge-made law made over years of court decisions, and not legislated by government bodies. To learn more, contact us today and schedule a free consultation with one of our Toronto employment lawyers.

What Are Employment Standards?

Employment standards are guidelines that outline the rights and entitlements of workers, as well as actions employers are prohibited from undertaking. The purpose of employment standards is to protect and benefit the employee.

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act is a piece of legislation that outlines the minimum rights to which an employee is entitled. An employer is not allowed to penalize a worker for exercising their rights under the ESA.

To Whom Does the Employment Standards Act Not Apply?

While the ESA applies to most workers in Ontario, it does not apply to individuals employed in federally-regulated industries, such as transportation and banks, as well as certain other professions.

Certain industries and jobs are partially exempt from the ESA, due to the particular nature of the work. This includes lawyers, teachers, doctors, government employees, and more. These categories are covered by unique sets of rules and exemptions.

How Does Pregnancy and Parental Leave Work Under the ESA?

The Employment Standards Act provides the provincial standards for an employee’s rights to unpaid leave in connection with the birth of a child. Eligible employees who are pregnant typically have the right to 17 weeks of unpaid leave, provided they have worked for their ESA-covered employer for at least 13 weeks prior to the due date. Both new parents are entitled to between 61-63 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

Expectant and new parents may also wish to consult the federal Employment Insurance Act to understand the financial support to which they may be entitled during the course of their unpaid ESA leave.

The ESA and Employment Insurance Act are two different sets of rules. If you are considering accessing Employment Insurance benefits as well as ESA-regulated leave, it is strongly advisable that you seek detailed information on your rights. Contact our employment standards lawyers for a consultation today.

How Can an Employment Lawyer Help Me With Regards to Employment Standards?

An employment lawyer may be able to sit down with you and review your employment questions and help you understand what avenues may be available through the Employment Standards Act. They may also assist with administrative labour, and the filing of claims.

How Do I File a Complaint Against My Employer in Ontario?

Filing a complaint against your employer in Ontario can be done by making a claim to the employment standards officer at the Ontario Ministry of Labour. It is free to do, and does not require the assistance of a lawyer. The Ministry of Labour investigates a range of issues, including unpaid wages, pay equity, termination rights, and more.

Employees should be cautious before filing a complaint against their employers, however. Whereas the Ministry of Labour can order an employer to pay up to $10,000 in owed amounts, it does not order common law damages – which may entitle an employee to greater amounts in compensation. Common law damages may be pursued through court. However, once a complaint has been filed with the Ministry of Labour, the employee will not be able to sue through the courts.

Contact our Toronto employment standards lawyers today for a free consultation to discuss which route may be best for you.

What Are Employment Rights Under the ESA?

Some of the rights covered under the ESA include:

  • The right to receive overtime pay
  • Pay for public holidays
  • Minimum wage
  • How wages are paid
  • Maximum hours
  • Vacation pay
  • Standards for termination and layoffs
  • Standards for various form of leave
  • And more

What Is Employer Reprisal?

Employer reprisal is when an employer terminates an employee’s employment or threatens discipline when the employee attempts to enforce their legal rights under the ESA. Reprisal is prohibited under the Employment Standards Act. Employers who attempt reprisal may be ordered to reinstate and/or compensate the employee, or face penalties, possibly including prosecution.

Speak with our Toronto employment standards lawyers today if you are facing an issue of employer reprisal.

What Is the Difference Between Ministry of Labour Claims vs. Civil Claims?

A Ministry of Labour claim will typically stay within the parameters of the Employment Standards Act, dealing with minimums only. In pursuing a civil claim, an individual may be entitled to further compensation than what the minimums establish. If you start a civil claim, you cannot file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour for the same issue. Likewise, if you file a Ministry of Labour complaint, you cannot pursue a civil claim on the matter.

To pursue a Ministry of Labour claim, you file a claim directly with the Ministry, without requiring the support of a lawyer. However, if you wish to pursue a civil claim, it is advisable to work with an employment lawyer. At Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP, we may be able to help you through the steps from beginning to end.

Contact Our Employment Standards Lawyers Today For a Free Consultation

Whatever your questions or concerns regarding an employment matter in Ontario, it is essential to understand your legal rights. Contact our employment standards lawyers to discuss how we may be able to support you in your case. Schedule your free consultation with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP today.

*Please be advised that the content of this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of employment standards in Ontario, and should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice, please consult with an employment lawyer.

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