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Reprisals under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

What is the Occupational Health and Safety Act?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is the Ontario law that protects workers from health and safety hazards at work. It gives important rights to workers, such as the right to refuse unsafe work, and gives the Ministry of Labour the power to inspect workplaces and investigate complaints.

For detailed information about your rights under the OHSA, you can call the Ministry of Labour at 1-877-202-0008 or visit their website.

Can my employer threaten or punish me for following health and safety laws or trying to use my rights?

No. It is against the law for an employer to threaten or punish you because you followed health and safety laws or tried to enforce them.

What is my employer not allowed to do?

Your employer cannot do any of these things because you followed health and safety laws or tried to enforce them:

  • fire or threaten to fire you
  • lay you off or threaten to lay you off
  • suspend or threaten to suspend you
  • discipline or threaten to discipline you
  • impose a penalty on you
  • intimidate or coerce you

Your employer also cannot do these things to you because you were a witness in an occupational health and safety case or at a coroner’s inquest.

What is a reprisal?

The word “reprisal” is a legal term that refers to a negative action or threat by an employer that occurs because a worker followed health and safety laws or tried to enforce them. Some examples of actions that would be considered reprisals are listed under the previous question.

What can I do if I think my employer has carried out a reprisal against me?

You can complain to the Ontario Labour Relations Board and ask them to hear your case. If you have a union in your workplace, you can also file a grievance through your union. For more information, see Enforcing Your Rights.

Yes. Your employer still has the right to fire or discipline you for legitimate reasons.

The reason your employer fired, laid off or disciplined you must have nothing to do with you following health and safety laws or trying to enforce them. Even if it looks like your employer has a good reason for firing or disciplining you, it may be seen as a reprisal if part of the reason was because you followed the law or tried to enforce it.

If you file a reprisal complaint, your employer will have to show that the reason they gave for firing, laying off or disciplining you was the real reason and that it had nothing to do with you following the law or trying to enforce it. 

Does the OHSA protect all workers in Ontario from reprisals?

Almost all workers and workplaces in Ontario are covered by the OHSA, but some are not.

Some industries (such as banks, railways and communications) are regulated by the Government of Canada. Workers in those industries are covered by federal health and safety laws. If you are not sure if you are covered by the OHSA, you can contact us or call the Ministry of Labour. If you have questions about federal health and safety laws, you can contact Human Resources and Skills Development Canada at 1-800-641-4049 or visit their website

Important Information

This publication contains general information only. It is not legal advice about a particular situation and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified representative. This publication was last updated on the revision date listed below.

January 18, 2013