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The process

The information below will help you understand how to submit a prohibited action complaint and the process we follow to handle a complaint. A prohibited action may occur when an employer (or union) retaliates against a worker because the worker raised an occupational health and safety concern.

1. Submitting a prohibited action complaint

If you think you have experienced prohibited action, you should complete a Worker Prohibited Action Complaint (Form 57W1). (Note: If you’re making a complaint about an employer’s failure to pay wages as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, please complete a Failure to Pay OHS Regulation Wages Complaint (Form 57W33).)

Your complaint must be in writing and submitted to WorkSafeBC — calling Prohibited Action Complaints or Prevention Services and talking to an officer is not enough.

There are strict timelines to file a complaint depending on the nature of the complaint. The timelines are:

  • Prohibited action complaints must be submitted to us in writing within one year of the prohibited action.
  • Failure to pay wages complaints must be submitted to us in writing within 60 days after the wages became payable.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Please note we cannot provide legal advice. If you require advice, please see “Need advice?” for information and resources.

2. Referral to Prevention Services

The Prohibited Action Complaints team does not fix occupational health and safety issues. We only address the negative impact of actions taken by your employer or union related to your employment or union membership.

When we receive a complaint, we provide a copy of it to Prevention Services. Prevention Services looks into the occupational health and safety concerns identified in the complaint and may issue inspection reports to correct the occupational health and safety issue. Prevention Services does not address the prohibited action complaint itself.

3. Preliminary review of complaint

Our team conducts a preliminary review of the complaint. We look at whether we have jurisdiction to hear the complaint and ensure your complaint has the basic elements that may be considered a prohibited action. This does not mean that your complaint will be successful — it means that there is enough evidence to require submissions from the employer.

If you have filed a grievance with your union relating to the same issue, you cannot pursue a prohibited action complaint with us at the same time. To preserve your right to a prohibited action complaint, you can submit your complaint, but you must then elect whether to pursue a grievance with your union or a prohibited action complaint with us. You cannot do both.

We may suspend your complaint until we can determine the status of a potential union grievance. Suspending a file does not mean that the complaint is closed. It allows us time to investigate a potential grievance and determine the next steps.

We only have jurisdiction to receive complaints arising out of provincially regulated workplaces. If your workplace is not in our jurisdiction, for example inter-provincial transportation or a mine, you should direct your complaints to the Government of Canada’s Labour Program.

4. Mediation

If your complaint passes the preliminary review, we will invite you and your employer to participate in voluntary and free mediation. The only issue that can be mediated is the prohibited action complaint. Mediation often helps parties resolve their dispute quickly and in a neutral setting with more control over the outcome.

At this point, we will provide your employer with full details of your complaint and any subsequent material collected during the initial inquiry.

Both you and your employer are free to resolve a complaint at any time on your own. You are also free to withdraw your complaint at any time. To withdraw your complaint, please complete and submit a Prohibited Action Complaint Withdrawal (Form 11B41) .

5. Written hearing

If a mediated settlement can’t be reached or if you or your employer decide not to mediate, the file will proceed to the written hearing stage.

As part of the written hearing process, your employer will be invited to provide their submissions (argument) and evidence in response to your complaint, and you will have the opportunity to submit the same in reply to your employer’s submission. We may provide the parties with additional opportunities to provide submissions if there are new facts that require a response from the other party.

6. Decision

Once submissions have concluded, one of our lawyers will review the submissions and evidence provided by both parties and prepare a written decision as to whether a prohibited action occurred. The lawyer may accept or dismiss your complaint.

If we dismiss your complaint, no orders will be issued and your file will be closed. If we accept your complaint, your file will proceed to a written hearing on the remedy.

7. Remedy hearing

If we find that prohibited action took place, based on a full review of all the relevant information, we will typically require further submissions from you and your employer on what remedy to award you. The lawyer will make a decision on the remedy award, in writing, and issue the employer or union one or more formal orders to remedy the situation.

The primary objective of the remedy award is to put you in the same position you would have been in had the prohibited action not occurred. See a summary of the remedies available to workers.

Appealing the decision

If you disagree with the decision, both you and your employer or union may appeal the decision directly to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) as long as the appeal is filed within 90 days of the decision.

If your complaint involves a union, the same process applies.