How can I enforce my rights as a worker?

You may be able to make an employment standards claim against your employer. The Ministry of Labour can order your employer to pay you money that you are owed.

A claim for unpaid wages must be filed with the Ministry of Labour within 2 years of the date the wages were owing.

In some cases, the Ministry can order your employer to give you your job back and to compensate you for any loss caused by your employer’s actions. For example, this can happen if your employer broke the law by punishing you for exercising your legal rights.

Examples of exercising your legal rights under the ESA are:

  • taking the pregnancy or parental leave you are entitled to, and returning to your job at the end of your leave,
  • asking about your rights or asking your employer to obey the law,
  • refusing to sign an agreement affecting your rights, for example, an agreement about how you will be compensated for overtime,
  • making a claim against your employer, or
  • giving information to an Employment Standards Officer who is investigating your employer.

If you make an ESA claim against your employer, it is very helpful to have records of the hours and dates that you worked. Make notes about incidents that might be relevant to your claim. Include the names of any witnesses to events that relate to your claim.

Keep any documents or pay stubs you get from your employer. Also keep copies of any other documents that have to do with your job.

In some cases, you may be able to enforce your rights by suing your employer. If you do, you cannot file a claim for the same violation of your rights with the Ministry of Labour.

If your employer goes bankrupt

If your employer has gone bankrupt, is insolvent, or is in receivership, you may be able to get back money that they owe you. You can apply to the federal Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) to get back wages, vacation pay, severance pay, and termination pay.

You must have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN) to apply online.

If you do not have a vaild SIN, call 1-866-683-6516 to get a paper copy of the application form.

The most you can get from WEPP is 7 times your maximum weekly “insurable earnings” under the Employment Insurance Act. For 2022, the most you can get from WEPP before deductions is $8,117.34.

You can get wages and vacation pay that you earned in the 6 months before your employer’s bankruptcy.

If you lost your job in the 6 months before your employer’s bankruptcy, you can get severance and termination pay that your employer owes you. If you continue to work for your employer after the bankruptcy, you can also get it once your job ends.

To find out more about who can qualify and how to apply, you can go to the Service Canada website at Or you can call Service Canada at 1-800-622-6232 or 1-800-926-9105 (TTY).

Other legal rights

You have other legal rights besides those in the ESA.

If you are discriminated against or harassed because of your race, sex, age, disability, or other reasons that violate your human rights, you may be able to make a claim to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

You also have legal rights if you are having problems at work because of a health and safety issue in your workplace, or because you raised a concern about your employer not obeying environmental protection laws.

Your community legal clinic may be able to give you information or advice if you are experiencing discrimination or other problems related to your rights at work. To find out how to contact a community legal clinic, see Where can I find out more and get legal help?

Previous page Next page