How the OHSA protects workers against unlawful reprisals
Section 50 of the OHSA provides that a worker cannot be fired, suspended or disciplined (or threatened to be), intimidated, coerced or penalized in any way because the worker has,
- complied with the OHSA
- asked the employer to comply with the OHSA
- exercised his/her rights under the OHSA
- provided information to an MOL inspector
- followed an MOL inspector’s order, or
- provided evidence at a hearing regarding the enforcement of the OHSA.
A worker who believes he/she has been penalized for following the OHSA can file an unlawful reprisal application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). If the OLRB rules in the worker’s favour, it can order a wide range of remedies including rehiring the worker (reinstatement), payment of lost wages, removing warning letters from the worker’s file, and payment of any other financial losses the worker may have suffered from the employer’s alleged misconduct.
A “reverse onus” applies in section 50 unlawful reprisal cases. That means it is assumed the employer has contravened section 50 of the OHSA unless you can prove to the OLRB, on a balance of probabilities, that you did not impose an unlawful reprisal on the worker. For this reason, as with all health and safety issues, documentation for any situation that involves a right to refuse unsafe work is critical.