Toronto Employment Standards Claims Lawyer

Employment standards refer to the minimum entitlements most employers in Ontario must provide to their employees under the provincial Employment Standards Act. When an employer denies an employee rights to which they’re entitled under the legislation, the employee deserves compensation.

Employees need to review their options before pursuing legal action against their employer. Obtaining the advice of an experienced employment lawyer helps ensure the employee receives the most fulsome severance package possible, especially in cases involving a potential wrongful dismissal claim.

At Haynes Law Firm in Toronto, we work with employees to help them understand their entitlements and prepare a plan of action when their employer violates the Employment Standards Act. We help employees identify the most cost-effective and appropriate path forward for their specific situation.

Who is (and isn’t) Governed by the Employment Standards Act?

The Employment Standards Act applies to most employees in Ontario, including both full-time and part-time employees. Certain employees in Ontario are exempt from coverage, including:

  • Employees in industries under federal jurisdiction, including airlines, banks, telecommunications companies, and postal workers;
  • Interns;
  • Employees working under a program approved by a school, including:
    • Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology
    • Universities
    • Secondary Schools
    • Private Career Colleges
  • Police officers (except for provisions relevant to lie detector tests);
  • People performing work under the Ontario Works Act, or as part of a sentence or court order.

Partial Exemption for Certain Professionals

Certain professionals are partially exempted from coverage under the Employment Standards Act, including lawyers, architects, engineers, accountants, veterinarians, pharmacists, and doctors. These professions are exempted explicitly from sections VII through XI of the Employment Standards Act, which provide the following protections:

  • Limitations on hours of work;
  • Mandated eating periods;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Public holidays; and
  • Vacation pay.

Despite the exemptions, professionals are entitled to the remaining entitlements set out in the Employment Standards Act.

Employment Rights Under the Employment Standards Act

The Employment Standards Act sets out minimum entitlements for employees concerning a broad spectrum of issues, including:

  • Minimum wage;
  • Leaves of absence such as parental leave, bereavement leave, and family caregiver leave;
  • Hours of work and overtime pay;
  • Vacation and vacation pay;
  • Equal pay; and
  • Termination and minimum notice periods (relevant to wrongful dismissal claims).

Employer Obligations Under the Employment Standards Act

Employers whose employees are governed by the Employment Standards Act must ensure they are compliant in all areas. Employers are not permitted to contract out of their obligations under the Employment Standards Act, and an employment agreement that attempts to have an employee waive their rights under the Employment Standards Act will be considered invalid.

Employer Reprisal

Employees have a right to bring a claim against their employer or raise concerns about practices that contravene the Employment Standards Act. Reprisal refers to an employer’s attempts to intimidate, threaten or penalize an employee for asking questions about or attempting to enforce their rights under the legislation. If an employer is found to have made attempts at reprisal, they can be forced to compensate the employee for any losses incurred, or reinstate the employee to their role, if they were suspended or terminated.

Ministry of Labour Claims vs. Civil Claims

Employees have two options for holding their employer accountable for violations of the Employment Standards Act:

  1. Employees can file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour; or
  2. Employees can bring a civil claim against their employer in court.

Once an employee has chosen one resolution method over the other, they will not be permitted to pursue the other option later. For this reason, employees are encouraged to review their circumstances with the team at Haynes Law Firm before taking any action.

Ministry of Labour Claims for Employment Standards Act Violations

The primary benefit of filing a claim with the Ministry of Labour is cost. Employees are not required to be represented by legal counsel, and there is no cost to file a complaint. However, the disadvantages are notable:

  • Employers often have representation advocating on their behalf in Ministry of Labour claims, which may place an unrepresented employee at a disadvantage unless the employee opts to retain a lawyer, in which case the cost will likely outweigh any damages they receive.
  • If an employer is found to violate the Employment Standards Act, the employee will receive the minimum requirements as to compensation. Often, the remedies are much more comprehensive in a civil suit.
  • Employees who bring a complaint to the Ministry of Labour for wrongful dismissal, unpaid wages, or benefit plans are prohibited from later commencing a civil proceeding.

Civil Claims for Employment Standards Act Violations

Civil claims can be intimidating due to the time and expense required. However, the benefits are plentiful, namely:

  • The employee will generally opt to retain a skilled employment lawyer, putting them on equal footing with their employer.
  • The remedies offered through the civil claim route are often much higher than those available through the Ministry.
    • For example, in a claim for wrongful dismissal, employee compensation is capped at a maximum of 8 weeks in a Ministry complaint. However, civil courts often award damages equal to one month per year of employment.
  • In especially egregious cases, courts can opt to award punitive or aggravated damages, further increasing the employee’s compensation.

Selecting a Claim Option

Ministry of Labour complaints are often best reserved for limited issues or enforcing an employee’s rights under the Employment Standards Act. For claims related to lost wages or wrongful dismissal, a civil claim will often enable the employee to recover more significant damages.

Haynes Law Firm offers employees an accessible and friendly boutique firm dedicated to the practice of employment law. Employers often have significant resources at their disposal, which can be an intimidating prospect for an employee. However, Paulette Haynes is a force to be reckoned with and a challenging opponent for even the most prominent employment firms in the country. Paulette’s extensive litigation experience allows employees to successfully challenge their employer in any dispute, confident that they have an astute advocate on their side.

Contact Haynes Law Firm in Toronto to Assert Your Rights Under the Employment Standards Act

Toronto employment lawyer Paulette Haynes and her team of employment professionals at Haynes Law Firm help employees who have been unfairly denied entitlements under the Employment Standards Act. Employees are often reluctant to raise a complaint against their employer for fear they will be outmatched. Paulette and her team provide effective advocacy to employees, ensuring their clients receive all of their legally mandated statutory entitlements. To discuss how the team at Haynes Law Firm can assist with pursuing an Employment Standards Act claim, please contact us online, or call us by phone at 416-593-2731.