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Eight Things About Canadian Employment Law That You May Not Know

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In many ways, Canadian laws regarding employment are like those in any other country, but oddly enough, many workers here are unaware of some of these laws. This means that employees may be unaware of some of their legal rights, which can be detrimental.

You can certainly contact an experienced employment lawyer any time you like, but in the meantime, here are some things about these laws that you might want to keep in mind.

  1. Not All Workers are Protected

In Canada, there are three types of workers. Employees enjoy certain statutory and common-law rights including overtime, leave of absence, and vacation benefits. The second type, dependent contractors, also get some common-law rights, which includes reasonable notice upon termination.

The third type of worker, independent contractors, have few, if any, rights and entitlements under the law. When you are hired, you should make sure that you’re clear on what type of worker you are.

  1. Not All Contracts Have to Be in Writing

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If you’re an employee and you’re prepared to receive an employment contract, it can be an official offer letter, a written agreement, or even an oral agreement. If you’re a part of a union, which means that you fall under the category of labour legislation, the terms and agreements of your collective agreement must be in writing.

These things being said, it is better for both employee and employer if any type of contract is in writing and is explicit when it comes to describing terms and conditions.

  1. Are Workers Protected From Discrimination in Canada?

Yes, they are. Under the law, employers have an obligation to keep discrimination out of the workplace. Therefore, you cannot be discriminated against on the basis of your race, sex, creed, age, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, marital or family status, or even a criminal conviction.

These laws are taken very seriously. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any way, even if you’re not sure, speaking to an employment lawyer right away is highly recommended.

  1. There Are Things Employees Can Do If They Feel That They’ve Suffered Discrimination

If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against and you’re not yet ready to speak to an attorney, you should file a human rights complaint with a human rights tribunal or commission in your jurisdiction.


The process can take a while, and in the meantime, the other side may want to settle. In fact, many of these cases are settled out of court, but if you receive a settlement and you’re not sure it’s the best one for you, a lawyer can help you make the right decision and your first visit to one of these experts is usually free.

  1. What Types of Awards Do Discrimination Cases Usually Result in?

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If you sue for discrimination in the workplace and you win, there are several possibilities when it comes to the settlement. You might be compensated for lost wages, but aggravated and punitive damages may also be awarded.

In addition to various types of monetary awards, some tribunals and commissions award non-monetary awards as well. These can include reinstatement of the employee, which is often the only thing that the employee wanted, as well as required discrimination training for the entire workplace.

  1. What Type of Protection Do “Whistleblowers” in Canada Receive?

While employee standards legislation does not address this, the Criminal Code of Canada does. In this code, it states that no employer may retaliate in any way against whistleblowers who point out the malpractice of their employers. This includes demotion of the employee, termination of the employee, or any type of disciplinary action against the employee.

In fact, in Ontario, there is a law that rewards some whistleblowers with a financial reward for pointing out certain injustices in the workplace.


  1. Main Sources of Employment Law

The laws regarding employment are governed in certain ways, depending on the province. In nine of the ten provinces, employment law is covered by statutes, employment contracts, and common law. In Quebec, it is covered by statutes, employment contracts, and by the Civil Code of Quebec.

Employment issues are generally the responsibility of the jurisdiction, but some occupations are protected by federal legislation. These include railway, port services, air transportation, banking, and telecommunications workers.

  1. Atypical Workers Are Still Protected by the Laws

Even “atypical” workers are covered by discrimination and other laws that protect them from suffering in any way in the workplace. This includes part-time workers, temporary agency workers, and fixed-term contract workers. They are still covered and protected under any and all Canadian human rights legislation.

When it comes to issues such as harassment, discrimination, and hostile environments, everyone who works in a Canadian place of business is to be protected from those things according to the law. If you fit into one of these categories and feel that you have been a victim of discrimination or something similar, you should talk to an employment lawyer to explore all of your options.

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