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My employer punished me for complaining about a safety issue. How do I make a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) says that your employer can't punish you because you ask them to follow safety rules.

If you've been punished for asking about your rights or complaining about health and safety concerns, this is called unlawful reprisal.

You can make a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).

This is sometimes called a "Section 50 complaint" because the rule that says your employer can't punish you for safety complaints is section 50 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Before you make a complaint to the OLRB

Try to work out a solution that you and your employer agree on.

If you have a union, they must decide how to handle the problem you're having. So you have to talk to your union representative before you contact the OLRB.

If you make a complaint to the OLRB, you may have to go to a hearing.

Hearings can be expensive and difficult. The OLRB does not charge you fees. But if you lose, you might have to pay your employer back for what they spent on your hearing. That could include their lawyer's fees.

Before you contact the OLRB, you should learn about what will happen.

Most people also don't make a complaint to the OLRB if they’re still working for the employer.

Get legal help

If you don't have a union, you should try to get legal help with your OLRB claim.

A lawyer can give you advice about the law, fill out your application, and represent you in your hearing.

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 based on your income.

You could also contact Workers' Health & Safety Legal Clinic, which helps people with low incomes who are having health and safety problems at work.

If you've been injured or punished by your employer for complaining about harassment, you can also contact the Office of the Worker Adviser. They can give you information and legal advice if you don't have a union.

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Next Steps: 

1. Fill out your application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board

This kind of application is sometimes called a "Section 50 complaint" because the rule against unlawful reprisal is section 50 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Listed below are the forms you need to make an unlawful reprisal complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). All of these forms together are called your application.

Filling out Form A-53

This is the form where you describe in detail what happened and what you want the OLRB to do.

You have to include:

  • your full name, address, phone number, and email address
  • your employer's full name, address, phone number, and email address
  • a detailed description of what happened, including dates, locations, and the names of everyone involved
  • what sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act haven’t been followed
  • a detailed description of what you want the OLRB to do

When you describe what happened, you should include:

  • every event that you think is important
  • when each event happened
  • where each event happened
  • who else was there
  • any injuries, doctor's visits, or other experts you talked to

You don't have to use legal terms. And if you use them in the wrong way, it could cause problems later. Just explain what happened in your own words.

You have to tell the OLRB what you would like them to do. You could ask the OLRB to:

  • change your employer's health and safety policy
  • make your employer fix a health and safety problem
  • cancel your suspension or other discipline
  • make your employer pay you notice, if you lost your job
  • something else that will solve your problem

It's important to put all of the details into the Form A-53. This is because you likely won’t be able to talk about anything in your hearing with the OLRB unless you put it in your application.

You can attach more pieces of paper if you run out of room on the form.

2. Give a copy of your application to your employer and anyone else who’s affected

Give a copy of your application to your employer. You can do this in person, or by fax, regular mail, or courier.

When you send it to them, write down the date and time you did this on page 6 of Form A-53.

You also need to give a copy of your application to anyone you think would be affected by a decision that the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) makes about your complaint.

For example, if your employer changed your duties and now another worker is doing your old job, their job may change if the OLRB orders your employer to give you your old duties back. You should give this person a copy of your application.

If you give someone a copy of your application, they can send information to the OLRB and take part in your hearing.

You may need

3. File your application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board

After you give a copy of your application to your employer, you only have 5 days to give your application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).

When you give your application to the OLRB, this is called "filing" your application.

You must give the OLRB the original of all of your application documents.

Make sure you fill out all the information that they ask for. You must also put a date on the forms and sign them with a pen.

Keep a copy for yourself. You will need it if you have a consultation or hearing

You must take your application to the OLRB in person or send it by courier to:

Ontario Labour Relations Board
505 University Ave, 2nd floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2P1

You cannot send it by fax, email, or regular mail.

You may need

4. Read your employer's response

After your employer gets your application, they have the right to send their version of what happened to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. This is called "filing a response".

Your employer has to send you their response within 10 business days after they get your application.

They do this using the blank forms you sent them and they may include some other documents as well. You will get a copy of what they send.

Read your employer's response. They may say that things happened differently than what you said. They may also talk about the law and how it applies to what happened.

You should think about what you want to say at the consultation or hearing and what evidence or proof you will need to show what happened.

Get legal advice

If you need help, or if your employer talks a lot about the law in their response, you should try to get some legal advice.

A lawyer can give you advice about the law, draft your application, and represent you in your hearing.

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 based on your income.

You could also contact the Workers' Health & Safety Legal Clinic, which helps people with low incomes who are having health and safety problems at work.

If you've been injured or punished by your employer for complaining about harassment, you can also contact the Office of the Worker Adviser. They can give you information and legal advice if you don't have a union.

You may need

5. Talk to a Labour Relations Officer

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) will assign a Labour Relations Officer who will deal with your application.

The Labour Relations Officer will contact you and your employer and try to help you agree on a solution. If you can do this, you won't have to go to a hearing.

Hearings can be difficult and expensive.

Working with a Labour Relations Officer

The Labour Relations Officer is neutral and does not represent you or your employer.

They may give you more information about the law and help you understand what the OLRB is likely to decide if you have a hearing. They can't force you to do anything.

They might meet with you and your employer in person or ask you questions over the phone. You should explain your situation and show them any proof you have about what happened.

They may talk to you and your employer several times to see if you can agree on a solution.

They don't make a final decision on your complaint if you can't agree on a solution with your employer.

You can talk to the Labour Relations Officer honestly.

If the Labour Relations Officer thinks there's no chance that you and your employer will reach a settlement, they will tell the OLRB to schedule a consultation or hearing.

You will get a Notice of Consultation or Hearing in the mail. It will tell you the date of your consultation or hearing.

You may need
Reviewed: 
October, 2015

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