Federally Regulated vs. Provincial Employees

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Federally Regulated Employees: Pros and Cons

A majority of employment law cases featured in the media deal with provincially regulated employees, given that a large majority of the working population in Canada is provincially regulated.

This weeks’ blog post takes a closer look on the benefits, legislative and procedural implications, and the drawbacks of being federally regulated.

The Government of Canada’s website has a list of all federally regulated industries, which you can access here.

Note: To get assistance finding a list of federally regulated employers please see our blog post “List of Federally Regulated Companies in Canada“.

Legislative/Procedural Differences
Federally regulated employees are governed by the Canada Labour Code R.S.C., 1985, c. L-2 (the “CLC”), the federal equivalent of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000. While it bears many similarities to its provincial legislative counterpart, the CLC is unique in that it has a section (240) which allows for unjustly dismissed employees whom are not managers with a tenure of 12 months or longer to receive reinstatement with back pay.

Federally regulated employees can proceed with a wrongful dismissal action in one of two ways: first, by filing a complaint with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (the “HRSDC”), and second, by utilizing the civil courts.

For human rights violations, federally regulated employees must file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (“CHRC”).

Benefits of Working for a Federally Regulated Employer

As noted, the primary benefit of being federally regulated is the element of security afforded by section 240. Absent cause for termination, an employee can be reinstated with back pay, which can be quite high depending on the date of reinstatement. Employees will have to utilize the HRSDC or the CHRC in order to obtain this remedy,

In Cowling v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta as represented by Alberta Employment and Immigration, 2012 AHRC 12 (CanLII), a 67-year-old woman who was employed as a Labour Relations Officer for the Alberta Department of Employment and Immigration was denied an additional contract, which she had come to expect over her 8 years of employment with the government. She filed a complaint and successfully obtained $15,000.00 in damages for human rights violations (she had claimed discrimination on the basis of age), reinstatement, and five (5) years of back pay.

Cons of Working for a Federally Regulated Employer

While a claim for wrongful dismissal will, a majority of cases, be accepted by the courts within the two year period afforded by the Limitations Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c.24, complaints submitted to the HRSDC are limited to ninety (90) days following the issue of the complaint, and complaints submitted to the CHRC are limited to twelve (12) months following the issue of complaint.

Employees can also face a jurisdictional challenge from an employer, which, surprisingly enough can be common within the HRSDC given the multi-faceted nature of national companies. For instance, you could be employed by a subsidiary of a transportation organization or a telecommunications organization that does not have federal aspects. In these cases, a complainant can be burdened with the expense and time incurred with an HRSDC complaint, only to have an adjudicator rule that the complaint would be better suited to the civil courts.

It is important to ensure that you consult with an employment lawyer if you have been unjustly dismissed or discriminated against, in order to be fully aware of your potential avenues of resolution and in order to avoid the incurrence of unnecessary costs and time expended.

While resources for federally regulated employees are available through the labour program, it is important to ensure that you are best suited to proceed against an employer, whether federal or provincial, when confronted with an employment law issue.

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