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Prohibited action complaints

If you become aware of unsafe or unhealthy conditions at the workplace and report it to someone at work or to WorkSafeBC, you are raising a health or safety issue. If you do so, you are legally exercising a right or carrying out a duty under the Workers Compensation Act.

It is illegal for an employer or union to penalize you for raising a health or safety issue at work. If you experience negative actions from your employer or union after raising a health and safety concern, you can submit a prohibited action (formerly known as a discriminatory action) complaint.

What do prohibited actions include?

Prohibited action takes place when these three elements are present:

  1. You notice a health and safety issue at your workplace
  2. You raise the issue with your employer (or union) or WorkSafeBC; and
  3. Your employer takes a negative action because you reported the issue

Examples of a negative action towards you by an employer are:

  • You are suspended or laid off, or your job is eliminated
  • You are demoted or an opportunity for promotion is taken away
  • Your duties are transferred to someone else
  • You are sent to another work site
  • Your wages are reduced or your working hours are changed
  • You are coerced or intimidated in some way
  • You are disciplined, reprimanded or penalized in any way

The workplace safety issue that you report is any right or duty that is under WorkSafeBC’s jurisdiction.

Failure to pay wages

You can also submit a complaint for what’s known as a “failure to pay wages.” This applies if you were not paid wages for the following:

  • 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
  • A layoff resulting from WorkSafeBC issuing a stop-work order

If your employer has not paid you as required by the Workers Compensation Act or Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, you can file a failure to pay wages complaint.

Need advice?

Contact your union, a lawyer, or the Workers’ Advisers Office, who provides advice on prohibited action complaints free of charge. If you are represented by anyone other than the Workers’ Advisers Office, please complete an Authorization of Representative form so they can speak with us on your behalf.

The following agencies might also be able to help for other issues that aren’t related to the prohibited action.

  • The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal deals with discrimination under the Human Rights Code, based on gender, family status, race, sexual orientation, religion, and physical disability
  • The Employment Standards Branch enforces statutory rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act, such as the employer’s obligation to pay workers for completed work
  • The Labour Relations Board deals with unionized worker complaints against unions and employers under the Labour Relations Act
  • The civil court system can deal with certain claims of wrongful dismissal

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