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How do I make an employment standards claim with the Ministry of Labour?

If an employer has not followed Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) you may be able to make a claim with the Ministry of Labour.

For example, you can make a claim if your employer has:

To find out if your job is covered by the ESA, see Step 1 below.

The Ministry looks into claims and can order the employer to pay you money that they owe you.

And if your employer punished you for asking about your rights or asking them to respect your rights, the Ministry can order your employer to:

  • give you your job back, if you were fired
  • change their practices so they follow the law

But they rarely order an employer to give you back your job.

They can also order your employer to pay you money:

  • for costs that you had
  • to replace money that you were forced to spend because of what the employer did
  • because of how the employer's actions affected you

Most people don't make claims against an employer that they're still working for. This is because the laws to protect workers don't stop employers from firing their workers. And if you're fired, it's up to you to take action against the employer to get what they owe you.

The process of making a claim with the Ministry and getting a decision can take between 3 to 8 months or longer. If you can resolve problems with your employer, that’s always best.

Time limit

The current rules say that workers have up to 2 years to make a claim for wages that their employer owes them on or after February 20, 2015.

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Next Steps: 

1. Find out if you're covered by the Employment Standards Act

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has rules about minimum notice periods and pay in lieu of notice.

But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And for some jobs, only parts of the ESA apply.

Use the Ministry of Labour's online tool called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out if:

  • your job is covered by the ESA
  • the ESA rules about being fired or laid off apply to you

You can also call the Ministry's Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551, 416-326-7160, or 1-866-567-8893 (TTY).

If the ESA does not cover your situation, check What laws apply to me as a worker?.

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2. Figure out what the employer owes you

The Ministry of Labour has several online tools that you can use to figure out what your employer owes you.

These tools include:

  • hours of work and overtime tool
  • pay calculator tool
  • public holiday pay calculator
  • termination tool
  • severance tool

You might want to get legal advice about how much your employer owes you. The rules can be complicated and you want to be sure you claim all the money you are owed.

And if you were fired, it's important to get legal advice.

A lawyer with experience in employment law can help by giving you advice about:

The Law Society Referral Service can give you the name of a lawyer or paralegal you can consult with for free, for up to 30 minutes.

JusticeNet is a program for Canadians with low or moderate incomes. It connects people with lawyers and paralegals who charge lower legal fees.

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3. Contact the employer, if you have to

In most cases, you're supposed to contact your employer before making a claim with the Ministry of Labour. This is in case your employer is willing to solve the problem, for example, by paying you what they owe you. That way the Ministry doesn't have to look into it.

You don't have to talk to your employer in person or by phone. You can contact them by mail, fax, or email, if that's easier.

You might not have to contact your employer if you have a good reason not to. The Ministry's claim form asks how you contacted your employer, what you asked your employer, and what the result was. If you didn't contact your employer, you must give a reason.

Below are some examples of what the Ministry says may be good reasons for not contacting your employer.

Examples of good reasons

A good reason could be that you already tried to contact your employer. Or it could be that your employer:

  • is bankrupt or your workplace has shut down
  • does not speak your language
  • did something that goes against your human rights
  • owes you money from at least 5 months ago

Or you might have a good reason if you:

  • are afraid to contact your employer
  • have a disability that makes it difficult for you to contact your employer
  • are a young worker
  • are a live-in caregiver

The Ministry can decide that, because of your situation, you might have a good reason that's not listed above.

Forms you can use

The Ministry of Labour has forms that you can use to tell your employer what you're asking for:

  • the Employer Notice and Information Letter explain that you must contact your employer before you can take a claim with the Ministry and tell the employer that it's illegal to punish you for acting on your rights
  • the Request for Payment Form tells your employer how much you’re asking them to pay you

Keep copies of all documents you give the employer. And, keep proof of your contact, such as registered mail receipts, fax confirmations, or copies of emails.

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4. Fill out the Ministry of Labour claim form

The Ministry of Labour has a Claim Form that you must complete. You can fill it out online or print a copy to fill out. You don't have to pay a fee to make a claim.

Before you start filling out the claim form, collect all the documents you might need to refer to. For example, you might have:

  • an employment contract
  • a Record of Employment
  • pay stubs
  • T4 statements
  • records or notes you made about your work hours or things that happened

The claim form asks for a lot of information. It will take time to complete. You need to say:

  • what rules your employer broke, for example, they didn't pay minimum wage
  • when they broke the rules, for example, which pay periods
  • how much money they owe you
  • your employer's name and contact information
  • if your employer is still in business and if they have other locations or use other names for the business
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5. Send your claim to the Ministry of Labour

Sending your claim in to the Ministry of Labour is called "filing" your claim. You can do this by:

  • using the online e-form
  • faxing it to 1-888-252-4684
  • taking it to a ServiceOntario centre
  • mailing it to:
    Provincial Claims Centre
    Ministry of Labour
    70 Foster Drive, Suite 410
    Roberta Bondar Place
    Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6V4

Keep a copy of your claim form. Give copies of the other documents to the Ministry and keep the originals. If you use the online form, the Ministry will ask you for the other documents when they start to look at your claim.

After you send in your claim, the Ministry gives you a claim submission number. You need this to keep track of what's happening with your claim.

If you use the online form, you get the number right away. Otherwise, the Ministry sends it to you in the mail.

Reviewed: 
September, 2015