Workers' Environmental Rights
Do I have the right to refuse to pollute? A worker can refuse to work when she or he believes that the work does not meet the laws under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). CEPA explains this. CEPA is a federal law which has to be followed in every province and territory. To learn more about the environmental laws under CEPA, see the box on this page.
Among the provinces and territories, only in the Yukon does a worker's right to refuse to pollute go beyond the right defined in CEPA.
Do all workers have the right to refuse to pollute? Yes. Any worker in Nova Scotia can refuse to pollute when the worker believes her or his work does not meet CEPA's environmental protection laws.
Do I have the right to report workplace pollution? When a worker reports to a CEPA inspector workplace pollution that the worker believes is illegal under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), CEPA is meant to secure the worker from being fired with "whistle blower protection". First, when a worker makes a report, she or he can ask that her or his name not be revealed. Second, it's illegal for the employer to fire, discipline or harass a worker who reports the employer to CEPA inspectors. CEPA's whistle blower protection, it should be noted, offers no security to the worker if the worker reports the employer to the media or to the public.
Can I report illegal workplace pollution when my contract states that I have to keep workplace information confidential? It's not clear whether a worker can legally be fired for reporting workplace pollution that's illegal under CEPA when the worker's contract states that she or he has to keep workplace information confidential.
A worker belonging to a union can speak about the collective agreement's confidentiality clause with her or his union steward.
What happens if I'm fired for refusing to pollute at work, or for making a report to a CEPA inspector? It is the case that employers do fire, discipline or harass workers who refuse to pollute, or who report illegal workplace pollution. It's against the law, though, for an employer to do so, according to Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) when the pollution is illegal under the Act. However, it is unclear in CEPA how the employer can be stopped from disciplining or harassing a worker, or how the employer can be made to rehire a fired worker when the employer has acted illegally.
For a worker belonging to a union, a grievance procedure might be used if the worker's fired, disciplined, or harassed for refusing to pollute, or for reporting illegal workplace pollution.