Respond to prohibited action complaints

If a worker witnesses or experiences unsafe or unhealthy conditions at the workplace and reports it to someone at work or to WorkSafeBC, he or she is 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 any one of the following, we consider it prohibited action:

  • The worker is suspended or laid off, or the 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 work site
  • The worker’s wages are reduced or the 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:

  • As a member of the joint health and safety committee, including time to attend meetings and educational leave
  • Accompanying a WorkSafeBC prevention officer on a safety inspection
  • A layoff resulting from 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.

Remedies

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 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 line. Any underlying health and safety issues are handled separately.

Need advice?

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 so they can speak with us on your behalf.