reprisal and retaliation: Punished at Work

Reprisal and Retaliation: Punished at Work

Getting punished at work for asserting one’s employee rights is unfortunately a common occurrence in workplaces across the country.

You might be wondering, “Can I face consequences at work for standing up for my rights?” The answer to that question isn’t straightforward. It depends on the specific right you’re asserting and how you’re doing it. For instance, while advocating for informal dress codes like “Casual Fridays” in the workplace may be a personal preference, it’s vital to understand that such informal policies are not typically governed by legal statutes.

Likewise, asserting your right to a harassment-free workplace means you don’t have to tolerate discrimination and bullying from co-workers. However, it’s essential to understand that while asserting your rights, engaging in harassing behaviours is not an acceptable means to achieve your goal.

In Ontario, employees are protected from workplace reprisals when they attempt to enforce their legal rights under various legislation, including the Employment Standards Act (“ESA“), the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code“), the Canadian Human Rights Act (“CHRA“), and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA“).

In this context, we will now provide definitions for “reprisal” and “retaliation” in the workplace.

Reprisal Meaning

Reprisal, in the context of the workplace, refers to any adverse actions or consequences that an employee might face as a result of asserting their legal rights, such as those protected by various employment and human rights laws. This can include acts like intimidation, threats, penalties, or even dismissal by the employer in response to the employee’s actions in seeking to enforce their rights.

Reprisal can take different forms depending on the specific legal rights involved, and it’s essential to understand the laws and regulations that protect employees from such actions.

Define Retaliation

Retaliation in the workplace refers to adverse actions or treatment that an employer or coworkers may take against an employee in response to the employee’s exercise of their legal rights or reporting of wrongdoing, such as harassment, discrimination, or other workplace violations. These retaliatory actions can include anything from intimidation and threats to demotion, suspension, or even termination. It’s important for employees to be aware of their rights and protections against retaliation under employment and labor laws.

What Kinds of Reprisal Are Covered Under Legislation?

ESA Reprisal: Section 74 of the ESA prohibits employers and their representatives from intimidating, penalizing, dismissing, or threatening employees for various acts, including inquiring about their ESA rights, requesting compliance with the ESA, or filing a complaint under the ESA.

Code Reprisal: Section 8 of the Code addresses reprisal, ensuring that everyone has the right to claim and enforce their human rights, participate in human rights proceedings, and refuse to infringe on the human rights of another person without facing reprisal or threats of reprisal. Section 7(3) of the Code also covers reprisal and threats of reprisal in cases of sexual solicitation.

CHRA Retaliation: Section 14.1 of the CHRA deems it a discriminatory practice for a person against whom a complaint has been filed under Part III (Discriminatory Practices and General Provisions) or anyone acting on their behalf to retaliate or threaten retaliation against the complainant or the alleged victim.

OHSA Reprisal: Section 50 of the OHSA provides protection against reprisal for those attempting to enforce their rights under the OHSA, such as refusing to work in unsafe conditions, cooperating with Ministry of Labour investigations, complying with orders, or providing testimony in related legal proceedings.

It’s important to note that an employer doesn’t need to actually punish an employee to meet the test of reprisal. It’s sufficient if an employer threatens punishment in connection with the employee’s attempt to enforce their legal right.

Employers need to be cautious about taking steps that may appear as punishment when an employee is trying to assert a legal right. Even if the employee has a valid unrelated reason for discipline, the timing and evidence may suggest reprisal.

If an employee files a reprisal claim or application, it’s the employer’s responsibility to demonstrate, based on a balance of probabilities, that they did not retaliate against the employee and to provide a proper justification for any disciplinary actions taken. For example, if an employee committed a minor infraction months before filing a complaint under the ESA and was only disciplined for it after making the complaint, the employer might be found to have engaged in reprisal.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Assist

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you have been subjected to reprisal or retaliation in the workplace, consulting an employment lawyer is a wise course of action. Employment lawyers are well-versed in employment laws and regulations, and they can provide invaluable assistance in the following ways:

Legal Assessment: An employment lawyer can evaluate your situation and determine if your claim has merit. They will review the details of your case, including the actions taken by your employer and the specific legal rights involved.

Legal Guidance: Your lawyer can provide you with clear and practical advice on how to proceed. They will explain your rights and the options available to you, helping you make informed decisions about the best course of action.

Negotiations: If appropriate, your lawyer can engage in negotiations on your behalf with your employer or their legal representatives. This may include discussions about possible remedies, such as compensation, reinstatement, or changes in workplace policies.

Legal Representation: If negotiations are unsuccessful and legal action is required, your employment lawyer can represent you throughout the legal process. They will prepare and file necessary documents, represent you in hearings or mediations, and ensure your interests are protected.

Documentation: Employment lawyers can help gather and organize evidence to support your claim. This may include records of incidents, witness statements, and other relevant documentation.

Advocacy: Your lawyer will be your advocate, ensuring your rights are upheld and that you are treated fairly throughout the legal proceedings.

Experience: With their deep knowledge of employment law, employment lawyers can anticipate potential challenges and strategize on the most effective ways to achieve a favorable outcome.

Remember, every reprisal or retaliation case is unique, and the assistance of an experienced employment lawyer is crucial in navigating the legal complexities and maximizing the chances of a successful resolution. If you believe you have experienced reprisal or retaliation at work, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel to protect your rights and interests.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation

If you’ve faced reprisal or retaliation in the workplace, it’s essential to take action to protect your rights and seek a just resolution. At Achkar Law, our experienced employment lawyers are here to support you. We understand the complexities of employment law and are committed to providing you with clear guidance and strong advocacy.

Don’t navigate this challenging situation alone. Contact Achkar Law today to schedule a confidential consultation. We’ll carefully assess your case, discuss your options, and work together to pursue the best possible outcome. Your rights matter, and we’re here to help you defend them. Reach out to us now and let us guide you toward a fair resolution.

Telephone: 1 (800) 771-7882
Email: [email protected]

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