Unionized employees seek our advice on a weekly basis. Often, this is because human rights violations have occurred at work but the union will not assist them. Sometimes, the union is part of the discrimination or harassment.
It is important to know that the rights of unionized employees are sometimes different to non-unionized employees. Generally, unionized employees are not able to sue their employers in court. For example, for wrongful or constructive dismissal. Generally, under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) unionized employees are not permitted to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour for a violation of the ESA. The Union must file a grievance for the employee.
Despite the many areas that limit unionized employees’ rights, these employees are able to assert claims at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits harassment and discrimination in employment on the basis of many grounds such as race, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, family status and disability. It also prohibits sexual harassment or sexual solicitation. The Human Rights Code applies to your employment even if you are unionized. If you have a claim because the employer has breached the Human Rights Code you could be entitled to lost income and additional damages. These additional damages are called ‘general damages’ and they are to compensate for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. If you have a human rights claim, you can file an application with the HRTO or your union can file a grievance. You cannot do both. You have one year from the date of discrimination/harassment to commence the legal process about your human rights’ violation.
If you have any questions about your human rights as a unionized employee, please contact Employment and Labour lawyer Nicole Simes at MacLeod Law Firm at [email protected] or 647-204-8107 and one of our lawyers would be happy to assist you.
Read our other blogs about unionized employees.