Respond to prohibited action complaints
If a worker witnesses or experiences unsafe or unhealthy conditions at the workplace and reports it to their employer, their union, or WorkSafeBC, they are raising a health or safety concern. A worker doing so is legally exercising a right or carrying out a duty under the Workers Compensation Act. It is illegal for an employer or union to penalize workers for raising health or safety issues, and workers can submit a prohibited action (formerly known as a discriminatory action) complaint if they feel this has occurred.
What do prohibited actions include?
If a worker raises a health or safety issue at the workplace, and the employer or union responds with a negative action, we may consider it prohibited action. Prohibited action can include the following:
- The worker is dismissed, suspended, or laid off, or their job is eliminated.
- The worker is demoted or an opportunity for promotion is taken away.
- The worker’s duties are transferred to someone else.
- The worker is sent to another worksite.
- The worker’s wages are reduced or their working hours changed.
- The worker is coerced or intimidated in some way.
- The worker is disciplined, reprimanded, or penalized in any way.
Failure to pay wages
Workers can also submit a complaint for what’s known as a “failure to pay wages.” This applies to wages that a worker should have been paid for work that includes:
- Working as a member of the joint health and safety committee (e.g., time to attend meetings and educational leave)
- Accompanying a WorkSafeBC prevention officer on a safety inspection
- Being laid off as a result of WorkSafeBC issuing a stop-work order
If a worker is not paid as required by the Workers Compensation Act or Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, they can file a failure to pay wages complaint.
In response to a prohibited action or failure to pay wages complaint, we can order an employer or union to do one or more of the following:
- Stop the prohibited action
- Reinstate the worker in his or her job
- Repay any lost wages
- Reinstate the worker’s status as a union member
- Clear the worker’s employment record of all reprimands or disciplinary references
- Reimburse the worker for any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses related to the prohibited action
- Write a reference letter confirming employment of the worker
- Do whatever else is necessary to be in compliance with the Act
Limitations on remedies
We cannot remedy the following through a prohibited action complaint:
- Pain and suffering: We cannot award general damages for emotional trauma.
- Workplace health and safety concerns: The remedies we order must be related to a worker’s personal losses, not the health and safety of the workplace or other workers. If a worker has concerns about health and safety violations, they need to report unsafe working conditions by calling our Prevention Information Line. Any underlying health and safety issues are handled separately.
Contact your lawyer, employer association, or the Employers’ Advisers Office, who will provide advice free of charge. If you are represented by anyone other than the Employers’ Advisers Office, please complete an Authorization of Representative (Form 63M4) so they can speak with us on your behalf.