What to do when your rights have been violated at work (and your manager won’t listen to you)

In every province in Canada, there are laws requiring employers to provide a safe and reliable work environment for their employees. These laws can be violated in a number of ways:

  • Failing to pay employees the amount they are owed, or at the time they are supposed to be paid;
  • Unsafe work environments; eg. using workers that are not properly trained or not providing safety equipment;
  • Discrimination of employees based on gender, race, or other criteria;
  • Forcing employees to work too many hours without a rest;
  • And more.

Check out this page for a list of your rights as an employee in Alberta.

So what can you do if you are experiencing dangerous or unfair circumstances at work? Remember, in Canada, it is the right of every employee to a safe and legal work environment. The Province of Alberta observes its own set of employment laws and rights for employees, and also provides an official department for investigating complaints about work. These laws and the people who work with them are called Employment Standards. You have the right to file a complaint with Employment Standards, which will then be investigated, after you have learned that your manager or workplace are treating you unlawfully.

Making an Employment Standards Complaint

Before you file an Employment Standards complaint, you MUST complete the following steps. It’s important not to forget these!

  1. Try to resolve the issue with your employer before filing your complaint. You must inform your employer that you believe you are being treated unlawfully and you must ask them to resolve the situation. If they refuse, then you are eligible to file your complaint.
  2. Check your eligibility: Check that you meet the requirements for filing an Employment Standards complaint. You must be, or have been an employee of the company you are filing the complaint against; you must work in Alberta, and you must wait one pay period to see if the issue (unless it is urgent) is resolved.
  3. Read more about how to file a complaint here.

Note that you do not have to pay any fees when filing a complaint and it can be done online. An employer cannot terminate your employment because you make, or are about to make a complaint. Make sure you file the complaint while you are still employed or up to six months after the last day of work.

Step 1. Create an account

If you have done the essential checks and are eligible to file the complaint, create an account  at the link above by providing your personal contact information before proceeding with filing a complaint.

Step 2. Provide information

In your complaint, provide as much information as you can and include the following:

  1. The name of your employer
  2. History of your employment
  3. A rough figure or estimate of any outstanding payments or entitlements that you have not received
  4. A detailed description of the problem in writing

You must also decide if you wish to provide consent to have Employment Standards act on your behalf to collect on an order, if the employer fails to pay amounts that are found to be owing to you.

Step 3. Notify your employer

  1. If you are filing a complaint that you have not been paid, you have to complete and send a Request for Payment letter to your employer. This letter is provided once the details of the complaint have been entered.
  2. You should then allow at least 10 days for your employer to respond to the request before returning to their account and proceeding to submit a complaint.

Step 4. Submit your complaint

You may submit your saved complaint to Employment Standards for review and investigation if:

  • a response from your employer was not received
  • the issue could not be resolved with a voluntary agreement

After you have submitted your complaint and it has been reviewed, Employment Standards will contact you to discuss the concerns. For more information on the process click Complaint resolution

Status of complaint, updating information and canceling a complaint.

You can check the status of your complaint by logging into your account.  You are responsible for any updated information, so it is always a good idea to do so before submitting it to Employment Standards.  Personal contact information can be updated at any time. You may also cancel your complaint, if you have reached a voluntary resolution with the employer.

For more information on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Employment Standards or sign up for updates.

Remember, no job is worth your health and safety or that of your family. If a resolution cannot be reached with your employer, consider looking for new work. It may be difficult, but your life matters!

CIES Guides are a volunteer-led project made possible through contributions from the community.

Thanks to Elyza Noordeen for help with this guide. If you want to suggest a correction to this guide, or want to submit one of your own, please contact us.