Whistleblower protection in Ontario

Whistleblower Protection in Ontario

Sometimes employees witness dangerous, fraudulent, or otherwise wrongful activities during their employment. The law tries to protect employees from consequences when disclosing hazardous or wrongful activities in their workplace against an employer’s right to protect confidential information.

When employees disclose these practices to people who may put a stop to them, the employees are said to have “blown the whistle,” otherwise known as whistleblowing. Before approaching external authorities, employees usually report illegal activities to their managers, supervisors or a neutral third party, hoping their employer will take corrective steps. 

Some employers appreciate the whistleblowing employee’s good faith and  take steps to put a stop to the unlawful acts that have taken place or are about to happen. Others may take it as the employee’s attempt to ruffle some feathers and retaliate. In extreme cases, employers may dismiss the whistleblowing employee for insubordination and refuse to pay any compensation. 

What protections do whistleblowers have in the workplace? What is the importance of a whistleblowing policy? This article will answer these questions and explain how a lawyer can help.

Considering Whistleblowing in Ontario? Understand Your Protections

Whistleblowing is a courageous act of reporting misconduct or illegal activities within an organization. In Ontario, whistleblowers are protected under specific legislation to prevent retaliation, ensuring they can come forward without fear of losing their job or facing harassment. If you’re contemplating whistleblowing or seeking advice on whistleblower protections, Achkar Law is here to help. Our team provides confidential consultations to navigate the legal implications of your decision and ensure your rights are safeguarded throughout the process.

Legal Whistleblower Protection in Ontario

Public sector employees in Ontario are protected from whistleblowing-related retaliation under the Public Service of Ontario Act (“PSA”). Similar protections are available to federal employees under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (“PSDPA”). 

Private sector employees may be protected under different laws depending on the information being disclosed.

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA“) protects employees who disclose unsafe practices or health concerns in the workplace. An employer can face legal liability if they dismiss, suspend, or otherwise retaliate against a worker for disclosing workplace violations of the OHSA to the Ministry of Labour. 

The Ontario Securities Commission’s Whistleblower Program (“Program“) encourages individuals to report serious securities law-related misconduct. The Program accepts tips on possible violations of securities law and offers a reward of up to five million dollars for tips that lead to enforcement action. It also allows whistleblowers to report securities law violations anonymously through a lawyer.

Ontario’s Securities Act (“SA”) and Commodity Futures Act (“CFA”) also provide remedies for whistleblowers who experience retaliation for reporting violations of securities laws. Employees do not need to be shareholders in their employer to make whistleblower complaints for violations.

The Criminal Code of Canada (“Code”) protects whistleblowers who report their employer’s criminal activities. Particularly, the Code prohibits employers from taking, or threatening to take, disciplinary action against employees for reporting or intending to report the employer’s statutory or regulatory violations.

Additionally, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario Act (“FSRA”) protects people reporting the contravention of Ontario’s pension law and other sectors governed by FSRA.

How Can a Whistleblowing Policy Help Employers?

Employers may introduce a whistleblowing policy to allow workers to report illegal, fraudulent, or hazardous acts or arrangements in the workplace. The goal is to address unlawful or dangerous activities and take corrective steps. 

A whistleblowing policy allows employers to avoid adverse government action, regulatory penalties, and possible negative publicity. It enables employees to report their workplace concerns anonymously or otherwise. Without a whistleblower policy, employers risk not being aware of illegal or wrongful issues occurring in their workplace which might result in significant legal liabilities and impact their business. 

An employer can protect the whistleblowers’ identity by allowing anonymous complaints. This encourages people to report any incident or workplace practices without fearing retaliation from their co-workers or employers.

A whistleblowing policy usually provides a detailed reporting process, including information about:

  • Reportable incidents and concerns;
  • People covered by the definition of whistleblower;
  • How to report a concern or incident;
  • Department or person investigating a whistleblower’s report or complaint;
  • Investigation process and decision-maker; and
  • Measures by the employer to protect a whistleblower’s identity.

A whistleblowing policy also does not usually handle disputes between colleagues, bullying, harassment, discrimination, and simple incidents of mismanagement. Those issues should be addressed through separate workplace policies geared towards complying with the OHSA and the applicable Human Rights legislation.  

A whistleblowing policy should be clear and explicit about what sort of conduct it applies to. Employers should also beware that their whistleblowing policy and mechanisms need to comply with applicable privacy legislation and other applicable workplace regulations.  

How an Employment Lawyer Can Support Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers play a critical role in exposing misconduct and ensuring ethical practices in the workplace. If you find yourself in the challenging position of being a whistleblower, seeking legal counsel from an experienced employment lawyer can be essential. Here’s how an employment lawyer can provide invaluable support in your whistleblower journey:

1. Legal Guidance and Protection

One of the primary roles of an employment lawyer is to provide you with expert legal guidance. They can help you understand your rights and protections as a whistleblower. This includes explaining the relevant laws and regulations that safeguard whistleblowers from retaliation.

2. Confidentiality

Maintaining confidentiality is often crucial for whistleblowers. Employment lawyers can advise you on how to protect your identity and ensure that your concerns are reported appropriately without fear of reprisal. They can also guide you on the proper channels for reporting misconduct, whether within your organization or to external agencies.

3. Documentation

Effective documentation is key when blowing the whistle on workplace wrongdoing. Your employment lawyer can assist you in organizing and preserving evidence related to the misconduct. This documentation can be vital in proving your case should legal action become necessary.

4. Reporting Procedures

Navigating the complex process of reporting misconduct can be overwhelming. An employment lawyer can help you follow the correct procedures and ensure that your concerns are properly documented and reported to the relevant authorities or internal channels.

5. Protection from Retaliation

Whistleblowers are often at risk of retaliation from their employers or colleagues. An employment lawyer can work to protect you from any form of retaliation, including wrongful termination, harassment, or discrimination. They can assist in filing complaints if retaliation occurs and advocate for your rights.

6. Legal Remedies

In the event that you face adverse consequences for whistleblowing, such as job loss or damage to your career, an employment lawyer can pursue legal remedies on your behalf. This may involve seeking reinstatement, back pay, or compensation for damages.

7. Negotiation and Settlement

Your employment lawyer can engage in negotiations with your employer or represent you in settlement discussions if appropriate. Their expertise can help secure a favorable outcome without the need for lengthy litigation.

8. Litigation Support

If a resolution cannot be reached through negotiation, your employment lawyer can provide representation in court. They will build a strong case, present evidence, and advocate for your rights during legal proceedings.

Conclusion

Whistleblowing can be a challenging and courageous act. Seeking the assistance of an employment lawyer ensures that you have a knowledgeable advocate by your side, protecting your rights and guiding you through the legal complexities associated with exposing misconduct in the workplace. If you find yourself in the role of a whistleblower, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced employment lawyer for support and guidance. Your commitment to ethical standards and workplace integrity is deserving of protection and legal representation.

Contact Achkar Law

If you’re contemplating whistleblowing or are facing challenges related to whistleblower protection in Ontario, it’s crucial to seek professional guidance to navigate these complex issues safely and effectively. Achkar Law understands the intricacies of employment law and whistleblower protection. We’re committed to providing comprehensive support and advice to ensure your rights are fully protected.

Contact Achkar Law today to arrange a 60-minute confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers. During this session, we’ll discuss your situation in detail and explore the best pathways to protect your interests and ensure your courage in standing up for what’s right is met with the legal support it deserves.

Contact us at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email [email protected].

Considering Whistleblowing in Ontario? Understand Your Protections

Whistleblowing is a courageous act of reporting misconduct or illegal activities within an organization. In Ontario, whistleblowers are protected under specific legislation to prevent retaliation, ensuring they can come forward without fear of losing their job or facing harassment. If you’re contemplating whistleblowing or seeking advice on whistleblower protections, Achkar Law is here to help. Our team provides confidential consultations to navigate the legal implications of your decision and ensure your rights are safeguarded throughout the process.

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