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Making a Complaint

Ontario

Making a Complaint

How do I file a complaint?

Employment Standards says you should first try to resolve the problem with your boss yourself. The branch suggests writing a letter explaining the problem and what you expect your boss to do to solve it.

If that doesn't work, then you can file a complaint. Employment Standards has fact sheets you can obtain for information on various employment standards law issues, including how to file a claim. Ontario Employment Standards has created a Before you Start guide including information you need to know about filing a claim. 

Are there time limits for filing a complaint?

Yes. If you're trying to get wages owed to you, there are two time limits: six months and one year.

Six months
In most cases, you have to file a complaint within six months from the day your wages became due. Your wages are due on your regular pay day. But if your employment was terminated, the money you're owed has to be paid to you within 7 days of termination or on your next regular pay day, whichever is later.

Sometimes, employers repeatedly break the same section of the law. If this is found to be the case in your situation, and at least one of these violations happened in the six months before you filed your claim, then you can get all wages owed you in the 12 months before you filed your complaint.

Two-year time limit
There are some cases where you can file a claim up to two years after the date you boss broke the law. Examples include situations where your boss has violated legal provisions dealing with leaves of absence, lie detectors, retail business establishments or has taken reprisals against you, including for trying to exercise your rights under employment law.

This two-year time limit also applies if your employer has broken a non-monetary section of the law, for example, not giving you proper meal breaks or days off.

It may be possible to make a claim that would otherwise be outside the applicable time limit if:

  • an employee has been misled by the employer in his/her entitlements under the Employment Standards At and
  • the employee took prompt steps to file a claim after he/she found out that what the employer said about entitlement was inaccurate

What happens after I file a complaint?

An Employment Standards Officer will be assigned and will encourage your employer to resolve the complaint. If that fails, there might be a formal investigation by phone, through written correspondence or in person. You and/or your boss might be required to attend a fact-finding session.

The Employment Standards Officer will make a decision. Your employer will be given a chance to voluntarily comply with the decision if it goes against him or her. If your boss doesn't carry through, the officer can issue an Order to Pay you the wages you're owed, a Compliance Order, a Notice of Contravention or, for certain violations, an Order to Reinstate and/or Compensate you.

If your boss doesn't pay up, the ministry can send a collection agency to get it. If your boss has broken the employment standards laws, the ministry can also choose court action.

When can't I file a complaint?

In general, if you're a union member and you feel your rights are being violated, you would file a grievance. You are covered by a collective agreement that contains rights that are the same as, and often better than those found in the law. You will also be entitled to union representation.

You also can't file a claim for wages owed you, termination, severance pay or discrimination in benefit plans if you've already started a court action on the same matter.

Filing a Claim

Employees can get a copy of the Employment Standards Claim Form:

  • on the Ministry of Labour's website (www.labour.gov.on.ca)
  • by mail through ServiceOntario Publications; or
  • in person at a ServiceOntario Centre.

For more information, please contact Employment Standards at (416) 326-7160 or toll free in Ontario at 1-800-531-5551 / TTY (for hearing impaired) 1-866-567-8893

For more information, please visit the Ontario Filing an Employment Standards Claim Factsheet