Workers cannot be subjected to discipline for exercising their rights under, or taking part in, activities to comply with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws. Sections 18 and 19 of the OHS Act address disciplinary actions and complaints. OHS can only accept disciplinary action complaints from workers not bound by a collective agreement.
Examples of disciplinary actions
The following disciplinary actions under OHS law apply when they are taken against workers for complying with OHS laws. They do not apply to the reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor related to managing workers or a work site.
In the OHS Act, disciplinary actions include:
- adversely affecting promotion opportunities
- termination, layoff or suspension
- demotion or transfer
- job elimination
- change of job location
- reduced wages
- changes to hours of work
- reprimand, coercion, intimidation or being disciplined
For example, if a worker refused to do dangerous work and was dismissed from the job shortly after for no other apparent reason, the worker may have been subjected to a disciplinary action under OHS law.
Complaints and appeals
Workers who are not bound by a collective agreement may file a complaint if they believe they were subjected to disciplinary action for complying with OHS laws. OHS will follow up when the complaint is submitted and ask for an intake form to be completed. The form asks for specific information to determine whether an investigation is required. Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the disciplinary action.
Workers bound by a collective agreement must use their grievance processes to pursue disciplinary action complaints.
An OHS officer reviews the initial information including the intake form. OHS officers may dismiss complaints that are without merit or frivolous, trivial, vexatious, filed with improper motives or otherwise an abuse of process before investigating. Workers may request an OHS Director review an officer’s decision to dismiss before investigating.
Learn more about disciplinary action complaints.
If a complaint is confirmed
If an investigation confirms that workers experienced disciplinary action, OHS can require employers to:
- stop the disciplinary action
- reinstate workers to their former employment under the same terms and conditions
- pay the equivalent wages and benefits workers would have earned if the disciplinary action did not happen
- remove reprimands or other references to the matter from employment records
- take any other action an OHS officer considers necessary to prevent a recurrence
Appealing a decision
Either workers or employers may appeal a disciplinary action decision to the Alberta Labour Relations Board. Appellants must send the appeal notice to the board within 30 days of receiving the report from the OHS officer. The decision by an officer to dismiss a disciplinary action complaint cannot be appealed, but a worker can request an OHS Director review that decision.