As part of the initiative to implement recommendations put forward by the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety led by Tony Dean, the Ministry of Labour has proposed a new regulation under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”, “the Act”). The regulation would assist workers who believe they have suffered a reprisal for bringing a health and safety issue to the attention of their employer. Further, and significantly for employers, the regulation would also assist smaller employers in responding to a reprisal allegation made by a worker.
Section 50 of the OHSA provides that employers are prohibited from disciplining, dismissing, penalizing or intimidating a worker because he or she has acted in accordance with, or sought enforcement of, the Act. Workers who allege that a reprisal has taken place may resolve their complaint by way of binding arbitration under a collective agreement, if available, or otherwise by filing a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).
The proposed regulation would expand the mandate of the Office of the Employer Advisor (OEA) and the Office of the Worker Advisor (OWA), who already provide assistance in respect of workplace insurance matters. The new OWA functions would include the provision of education, advice and representation to non-unionized workers who make a reprisal complaint to the OLRB, or who are referred by a Ministry Inspector to the OLRB.
The new OEA functions would similarly be to provide education, advice and representation to employers with less than 50 employees (unionized or non-unionized) in regards to reprisal complaints that are referred to the OLRB. All services would be provided free of charge. Legal representation services, however, would be limited to proceedings before the OLRB.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Labour requested written submissions from interested parties in respect to this proposed regulation, for which draft text has not yet been released. We will keep readers apprised of the development of this regulation.