Written by Daniel Foster
Most people fail to realize that you do not necessarily need a licensed paralegal, or a lawyer, to assist you in the event you believe your employer may not be complying with the law. There is another way to avoid the legal mine-field of suing in the courts. Persons who believe that their employer, or former employer, has not followed the provisions of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, also known as the ESA, may file a claim with the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
Although there are some exceptions, the ESA applies to most employers and employees in Ontario, but it does not apply to all. If you are like most people in Ontario, you will fall under the ESA and will be a proper candidate to file a claim. What happens if you decide to file a claim? All claims that are made are investigated to see whether there has been a violation of the law. The file will then be assigned to an employment standards officer for a full investigation. After investigating the claim, the employment standards officer will make a decision about whether the employer is compliant with the ESA.
If an officer finds that an employer has not compliant with the law, they will ask the employer to voluntarily act in accordance with their decision. If the employer is unwilling, or unable, to comply with the decision of the officer, the officer may issue an Order to Pay Wages, (with some exceptions, $10,000 is the maximum amount of compensation the Ministry of Labour can order an employer to pay an employee), issue a Compliance Order, or perhaps order the employer to reinstate you. Employers or employees that do not agree with the decision of the officer may apply for a review, or an appeal, as well.
Employers who disregard the ESA and its regulations, or fail to follow an order or direction from an employment standards officer, may be prosecuted and could be subjected to fines of up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both. Fines that are levied against corporations are even higher.
If you feel that your employer has violated your employment rights, be aware that there are time limits that may apply as well. To see if you are covered under the ESA, contact the Ontario Ministry of Labour and ask about their free publications. For legal advice, contact a lawyer. If you wish to pursue your employment matter through the Ontario Small Claims Court, you may contact a licensed paralegal.