Workers cannot be subjected to discriminatory action or discipline for exercising their rights under, or taking part in, activities to comply with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws. Discriminatory action under OHS laws is not the same as discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Sections 35 and 36 of the OHS Act address discriminatory actions and complaints.
Alberta Human Rights Act
The Alberta Human Rights Act protects Albertans from discrimination in the areas of employment.
For example, if a worker is dismissed from a job because of marital status or gender, the worker may have been subjected to discrimination under human rights legislation.
Learn more about discrimination in the area of employment under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Harassment and violence provisions of OHS laws address acts of discrimination in the workplace, such as racism or offensive comments.
Activities protected by OHS laws
OHS laws protect workers from discriminatory or disciplinary action when:
- complying with OHS laws
- being called to testify, intending to testify or testifying in a proceeding under OHS laws
- providing work site conditions information to an:
- Health and Safety Committee (HSC) member
- Health and Safety worker (HS) representative
- OHS officer
- performing duties or exercising rights as a member of an HSC or as a HS representative
- assisting with activities of a HSC or HS representative
- seeking to have an HSC established or HS representative designated
- exercising their right to refuse dangerous work
- being prevented from working by an OHS order
- taking reasonable action to protect the health and safety of themselves or another person
Examples of OHS discriminatory actions
The following discriminatory actions under OHS law only apply when they are taken against workers for participating in activities protected by OHS laws. They also do not apply to the reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor related to managing workers or a work site.
In the OHS Act, discriminatory 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 discriminatory action under OHS law.
Complaints and appeals
Workers may file a complaint (PDF, 113 KB) if they believe they were subjected to discriminatory action or discipline for participating in activities protected by OHS laws.
An OHS officer reviews the initial information and may send an intake form to the complainant. The form asks for specific information to determine whether an investigation is required.
Learn more about discriminatory action complaints.
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If a complaint is confirmed
If an investigation confirms that workers experienced discriminatory action, OHS can require employers to:
- stop the discriminatory 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 discriminatory 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 discriminatory 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.
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