The Yukon’s health and safety laws give workers rights as well as responsibilities in the workplace. Workers are protected by law from retaliation (negative actions, such as dismissal) by their employer or trade union when they exercise these rights. Such retaliation is called a “reprisal.”
Reprisal means any act or omission by an employer or trade union or any person acting under the authority of an employer or trade union that adversely affects a worker in respect of any term or condition of employment, or of membership in a trade union, and includes without limitation:
- Lay-off, suspension or dismissal;
- Loss of opportunity for promotion;
- Demotion, transfer of duties or change of location of workplace;
- Reduction in wages or change in working hours;
- Coercion, intimidation, imposition of any discipline, reprimand or other penalty; and
- Discontinuation or elimination of the job of the worker.”
It is against the law for employers to threaten workers with a reprisal for a protected activity (such as refusing unsafe work or complying with safety legislation).
In other words, when a worker exercises their workplace health and safety rights and responsibilities, it’s illegal for their employer or trade union to take (or threaten) negative actions against a worker for doing so. Actions include lay-off, reduced hours, a cut in pay or disciplinary action—anything that negatively affects the worker’s employment or membership in the trade union.
Making a complaint of reprisal
If an employer or trade union threatens or takes reprisal action against a worker for acting in compliance with the law, the worker should first consider approaching their employer to try to resolve the complaint. Unionized workers may also reach out to their union for support. If the complaint is not resolved with the employer, the worker may file the complaint.
The process for making a complaint of reprisal
- If a worker wants to file a complaint about the actual or threatened reprisal, they must do so in writing in either one of two ways. The worker may choose only one way to make a complaint about the reprisal (a. or b.) and, once chosen, they cannot change to the other way of filing a complaint.
- The worker follows their workplace’s dispute resolution process set out in the collective agreement. The employer must send a copy of the written complaint to us; or
- The worker completes the board’s complaint form and sends it directly to us. This must be within 21 days of the reprisal.
- When we receive a board complaint form from a worker (1b. above), one of our safety officers first reviews the form. The officer may interview the worker and employer to gather basic information.
- If the safety officer decides the complaint does not meet the criteria to proceed, they inform the worker and the employer in writing with the reasons for their decision.
- If the safety officer decides the complaint does meet the criteria to proceed, they refer the worker’s complaint to a neutral arbitrator and inform the worker and employer of the referral.
- The arbitrator reviews and investigates the complaint and decides whether there was a reprisal. The arbitrator writes a report with the reasons for their decision and provides copies to the worker, the employer and to us.
- If the arbitrator finds there was no reprisal, there’s no further action taken.
- If the arbitrator finds the worker experienced a reprisal in retaliation for participating in a protected activity, they may order the employer to take actions to address the reprisal, such as stop the reprisal, reinstate the worker, pay lost wages and benefits.
The arbitrator’s decision is final: neither the worker nor the employer may appeal. Arbitrators are neutral, objective and impartial third parties hired by the board from a list of qualified arbitrators. The arbitrator selected to review a complaint will review the complaint and if necessary, contact the worker or other parties named in the complaint form to get more information.
Out of scope
Reprisals are not the same as acts of discrimination.
Discrimination, wrongful dismissal and health and safety concerns are not addressed through a reprisal complaint process.
- Discrimination—The Yukon Human Rights Act protects all Yukoners from discrimination in the area of employment. Visit the Yukon Human Rights Commission for more information.
- Wrongful dismissal—Employment Standards also addresses employment matters. Visit Employment Standards for more information.
- Health and safety concerns—Health and safety concerns are addressed separately during a workplace inspection and are not part of an investigation. To make a complaint about a workplace health and safety concern, contact a safety officer to report an unsafe workplace to us. If an officer investigating a reprisal complaint finds there are unresolved health and safety issues, they may make additional orders to the employer to resolve or remediate those issues.
Workers' Safety and Compensation Act, see sections 53 to 56.