Complaint Process

Complaint Process : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Employment Rights



Does the Labour Standards Code apply to my situation?

Generally, Labour Standards legislation applies to:

  • employers whose business is regulated by the provincial government
  • employees who work for an employer regardless of the number of hours of work, e.g. permanent, full time, part time, casual, seasonal
  • recruiters who assist individuals, including foreign workers, in finding work in Nova Scotia and the individuals they assist

However, not all employees are covered by all areas of the legislation.  The rules can be complicated.  If you have any questions contact the Labour Standards Division.

The legislation does not apply to:

How long do I have to file a complaint with Labour Standards?

Complaints must be filed with the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Division within six months of a violation of the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code taking place for the Division to have the authority to address the complaint. For example, an employee begins a new job and regularly works overtime hours without receiving overtime pay. Eleven months later, the employee ends their employment and files a complaint with Labour Standards claiming overtime pay dating back to the beginning of their employment. If Labour Standards finds the employer violated the overtime pay provisions of the Code, Labour Standards can only order the employer to pay overtime pay owed within the 6-month period preceding the date the employee filed their complaint.

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How do I file a complaint?


Contact us

If you feel you have a Labour Standards complaint, contact us by phone or email, or drop in to our office. Our officers will discuss your concern with you and let you know if we can address it under our legislation. If we can and you decide to file a complaint, our officers will send you a complaint form by mail, fax or email, or you can pick one up from our office.


Complete the form

Once you get the complaint form, complete all information. Sign and date the form.


Return the form to Labour Standards

You can return the complaint form to Labour Standards by mail, fax, email, or by dropping it off to our office. We must receive your complaint form within 6 months of the incident happening. If you are faxing, please remember to fax every page of the form.


Complaint Filing Tips

  • Always keep documents such as pay stubs, cheques, work schedules, letters of termination, employment contracts, and other records.
  • When you attach documents, give us copies only. Do not give us originals.
  • File your complaint in plenty of time. Remember, we must receive your complaint no later than 6 months after the incident happened.
  • In some cases you can make an anonymous complaint. If you think you have a reason for keeping your identity unknown, talk to us about it. We can explain what we can and cannot do without your name.

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Once a complaint has been file what happens?


When Labour Standards receives a complaint, we first decide if we have the authority to address the concerns raised by the complainant.  A complaint will not move forward if, for example, the complainant’s concerns do not fall under Labour Standards legislation or if the complaint is filed more than 6 months after a possible violation of the legislation occurred.  If we have the authority to deal with the complaint, it will be assigned to a Labour Standards Officer for processing. 


Processing complaints

The officer will handle the complaint in a fair, impartial and objective way. The officer's role is to ensure compliance with the minimum standards set out in the legislation. The officer does not represent the parties to the complaint. "Parties" to the complaint include the person or business making the complaint (complainant) and the person or business against whom the complaint is made (respondent)

Settlement of Complaints

The officer will first try to resolve the complaint by asking the parties if they want to settle the complaint.  If the parties are interested in settling, the officer will facilitate settlement discussions.  Settlement allows the parties to decide what they think would be a fair resolution to the complaint.  If the parties do not want to settle, or if settlement discussions do not lead to an agreement, the officer will investigate the complaint.  In some cases the complaint may be reassigned to another officer for further investigation.


During the investigation, the officer will collect information from the parties. As part of the investigation, the respondent may need to give the officer information such as payroll records, pay stubs, time sheets, records of disciplinary action taken against an employee and workplace policies. The officer may need to interview witnesses who have information about the complaint. At any point in the investigation, a respondent may decide to settle the complaint, or a complainant may decide to withdraw the complaint. A complainant may withdraw the complaint if, for example, the complainant feels the evidence does not support it.

Making a Decision

If the complaint is not resolved during the investigation, the officer will complete the investigation and make a decision based on the best evidence available.  The Labour Standards Code says that employers must keep records showing they met the minimum standards of the Code.  If the employer does not have good records, they may not be able to show they met the standards and an employee’s complaint may be successful.  In some cases employees keep personal records, such as records of hours worked and pay received, and these records can be used to decide if the employer has met the standards.

If an officer decides that money is owed to a complainant, and how much is owed, the parties cannot agree to settle the complaint for less than the amount owed.

When the officer issues a formal decision (Director's Order to Pay or Notice of No Violation) the parties can either comply with the decision or, if they disagree with it, they can appeal it to the Labour Board

Sharing information

Information that we collect is shared with the parties.  Usually, the information is communicated to the parties verbally by the officer or through a letter or email.

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Is there any protection for employees who have made a complaint?


Personal Information

The Labour Standards Code provides that when anyone makes a complaint to the Labour Standards Division and asks that their identity be withheld, their name or any identifying information will not be revealed. However, some complaints cannot be pursued on a confidential basis.


Discrimination under the Labour Standards Code

It is against the law to fire, layoff, or discriminate in any way against an employee because they:

  • made a complaint, or assisted another employee in making a complaint, under the Labour Standards Code
  • were about to make an inquiry about their rights or another employee’s rights under the Labour Standards Code
  • initiated an inquiry, investigation or proceeding, or assisted another employee in initiating an inquiry, investigation or proceeding under the Labour Standards Code
  • testified or were going to testify (or if the employer believes that person is going to testify) in any investigation or hearing that takes place under the Labour Standards Code
  • disclosed or were about to disclose information that is required under the Labour Standards Code
  • discussed or disclosed information in the workplace about their wages or the wages of another employee, as permitted by the Labour Standards Code
  • took or said they were intending to take (or if the employer believes the employee will take) a leave of absence that an employee may take under the Labour Standards Code
  • exercised their right to refuse to work on Sundays or Retail Closing Days
  • need to have their wages garnished

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If you have any questions, please contact Labour Standards.

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See Also