Discriminatory Action : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Health and Safety

What is "discriminatory action"?

Discriminatory action means punishing an employee by doing something which affects their job. Some examples of discriminatory actions are firing or suspending an employee, changing an employee's hours of work, and reducing an employee's wages or benefits.

When is discriminatory action prohibited?

Employers cannot punish employees for following the rules of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or regulations. It is against the law to take discriminatory action or to threaten discriminatory action because the employee does something which complies with the Occupational Health and Act or attempts to use the rights given to them in the Act.

For example, an employer must not take discriminatory action against an employee because the employee has:

  • used the their right to refuse dangerous work
  • acted as a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee member or Health and Safety Representative
  • talked to a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee, Health and Safety Representative, or the Department of Labour about health and safety violations in the workplace
  • testified in court about the employer's health and safety violations

What if one of my employees feels that I have taken discriminatory action against them?

If an employee feels that an employer has improperly taken discriminatory action against them, they have 30 days to make a written complaint to a Department of Labour officer. If the employee is covered by a collective agreement, they may also choose have their complaint settled under the collective agreement.

When a Department of Labour officer receives a discriminatory action complaint, the officer will investigate the complaint. If the officer determines that an action has taken place that meets the definition of discriminatory action, it is up to the employer to prove that the action was solely motivated by legitimate business reasons.

If the officer finds that there has been improper discriminatory action, the officer will order the employer to make it up to the employee. For example, the officer may order the employer to rehire an employee, pay the employee's back wages, and remove any reference to the matter from the employee's records.

What if I don't agree with the officer's decision?

Any party affected by the officer's decision can appeal to the Labour Board within 21 days. If you do not appeal within this time, the officer's decision is final and must be carried out.

How can I learn more?

To find out more about discriminatory action, contact:

Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education
Occupational Health & Safety Division
5151 Terminal Road, 6th Floor
PO Box 697
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 2T8

Phone: (902) 424-5400 or 1-800-9LABOUR (in N.S.)
Fax: (902) 424-5640
Secure Enquiry Form

Single copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and related publications are available from the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour at no charge.