Ministry of Labour Complaints – Pros and Cons

When confronted with an employment issue it is typically best and most desirable to act fast towards resolving your matter, which may involve starting some sort of legal claim. As there are multiple avenues to choose from, with some offering greater or different benefits than others, one should be mindful that starting a claim in one avenue can have an impact on how the matter proceeds and limit future options.

For example, the Ministry of Labour (“MOL”) is one such avenue. The MOL is a government ministry that promotes and enforces employment standards legislation, like the Employment Standards Act, 2000 or the Ontario Health and Safety Act.

In some circumstances, proceeding through the MOL may be more efficient than bringing the matter through Small Claims Court, for instance in scenarios where the employee is seeking to be paid their Employment Standards Act minimums only. The issues typically put forward with the MOL in relation to employment issues are that of wrongful dismissals, termination, and severance pay disputes.

However, there are also limitations once a MOL complaint has been submitted which can affect your ability to proceed with a civil claim. Section 97(1) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 states that an employee who files a complaint with the Ministry of Labour cannot pursue a civil proceeding with respect to the same matter.

In employment law parts of the dispute may deal with legislative as well as implied, common law rights. For instance, in a termination situation, there is the Employment Standards Act minimum notice requirements and often also the longer reasonable common law notice period. While the legislative aspect may be within the scope of what the MOL deals with, the implied common law rights will not. Therefore while the MOL may provide you with a fair resolution in a timely manner, it is possible that there may be other claims or rights that you are giving up by choosing the MOL route. As such, it is important to keep in mind that once the complaint is filed and two weeks have elapsed, you are unable to pursue your matter through civil proceedings even if some aspects will not be addressed by the MOL.

The good news is that there are terms to this limitation. Section 97(4) of the same Act outlines that if the complaint is withdrawn within two weeks of its filing, the matter will not be statute-barred and the employee may then be allowed to pursue a civil proceeding. This is why it is crucial that an employee who is confronted with a workplace issue or dispute contacts legal representation before taking any action. The process to withdraw your claim is fairly simple and can often be done with a phone call.

For some matters, going forward with a Ministry of Labour complaint may be the best option, however, it is always best to have all the information to make an informed choice by seeking legal advice first.

Ultimately every case is different and the above is not legal advice for your situation. Please contact Monkhouse Law for a free 30 minute consultation.

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