Rights In The Workplace

Congratulations! You have made it through the application, interview and hiring stages. You now have a position you are excited about and work for a company that will help you build your skills, increase your experience and grow your career.

Although starting a new job can be an exciting and frustrating time while learning the responsibilities of the role and the culture of the workplace, it is an important step into any position and work environment with some preliminary knowledge.

A couple of things newly hired employees overlook or simply do not know are the importance of fostering an equitable work environment and the obligations of the employee and the employer in every workplace, as outlined by the province of Ontario.

Just how do you facilitate harmonious workspaces, and what exactly are these obligations? Firstly, it is vital to understand that although there are provincial rights in place to ensure equitable work environments, there are also steps you can take to protect yourself before lawful intervention.

By learning the steps below, you will empower yourself with invaluable knowledge as a newly hired employee. As by using these actionable suggestions, creating and sustaining a workplace in which you are both protected and able to professionally thrive will be a matter of choice.


Bettering Your Work Environment: Three Steps You Should Take in the Workplace

Many employees, especially those entering the workforce or working in a new province or country, enter the workplace as an empty slate. You start your new position expecting to learn everything you need to know on the job. Although your employer is obligated to give you access to your rights as an employee and to inform you of all workplace hazards, it is often impossible to learn and retain all of this information. What is possible is taking a few steps to improve your access to this information when actually experience issues at work. You can do this by following three steps.

Step 1: Talk to Your Boss

The Problem

Hesitation building a comfortable employee-employer rapport is not uncommon. Given the innately intimidating nature of this working relationship, employees at all career-levels can be reluctant to speak to their bosses. This reluctance can even turn into fear when there is a problem that needs your boss’s attention. This fear can lead to you to attempt to evade, hide or discretely fix the issue to avoid blame. Yet, this could lead to the issue escalating, which would leave you with a more significant problem to explain to your boss and to answer for.

The problem with an inability to establish a comfortable rapport with your boss is that it is detrimental to your general happiness in the workplace and to your ability to perform effectively. This could have larger implications in the workplace. Problems left unaddressed can cause you stress, which could have a negative influence on the mood of your coworkers in your workspace.  In turn, this could prevent you and your coworkers from working effectively, which makes you vulnerable to professional consequences and impacts the company’s overall efficiency.

The Solution

Prioritize your motivation to be a happy, thriving worker over your reluctance to build a comfortable, trusting relationship with your boss. Speaking to your boss openly about job-related issues not only reflects positively on you as a professional, but also demonstrates your dedication to your position and the company. You can further reinforce this attitude by remaining focused on long-term career goals, which may involve a promotion demanding your boss’s recommendation or a progressive position at another company requiring your boss’s referral.

Before bringing a problem to your boss’s attention, consider whether the issue is something that can be properly resolved on your own or by collaborating with a co-worker. If it cannot be fixed, have a proposed solution to limit the negative nature of the situation, to show your problem-solving abilities and to create an opportunity to collaborate with your boss on an action plan. Lastly, do not avoid or be fearful of the consequences. Lastly, do not be fearful of repercussions, as they are usually not as severe as anticipated. Your boss may even favour your proactivity.

Step 2: Keep Your Own Records

Essentially, work is a space where a diverse group of employees with different backgrounds, temperaments and responsibilities come together to work towards a common goal, achieving the company’s goal. Considering this, it is understandable that miscommunication between coworkers, teams and departments occurs on occasion. That is why it is imperative to keep records of certain events at work for reference. These records will prove invaluable when attempting to resolve professional or more personal issues that inevitably arise on the job.


Every workplace in Ontario is required to keep certain employment records for each employee they hire. Some of these records include personal details, such as the employee’s name, contact information and date of birth, as well as hours worked, written agreements, vacation time and wage statements. One of the reasons these records are kept to protect the employer from being wrongfully accused of not abiding by labour laws.

Employees can learn something from employers in this respect as keeping personal records of employment contracts, wage agreements and hours worked can prove invaluable in the event an employee is underpaid on a paycheck or not provided a raise on the agreed upon date in an employment agreement. These can be simple oversights made by the employer but providing evidence is the best way to dispute them.


Similarly, there are events in which keeping records of a more personal nature can be beneficial at work. Just as employees can experience issues with their employers, there are also cases where the employees face more personal problems with coworkers or bosses that are settled through outside parties. Documenting these experiences can be imperative to the employee’s pursuit of justice under their labour law rights.

For example, if an employee is facing discriminatory treatment from their boss, they may feel there is no way to fairly resolve the issue in the workplace. In this case, the employee submits a complaint through the Human Rights Tribunal, a board that investigates discrimination in the workplace. The human rights violation may be brought to a hearing, where the employee’s documentation could influence the Tribunal’s decision.

Step 3: Know Your Rights

Bringing issues to your employer is one way of resolving problems in the workplace, but what happens when those matters are the result of the employer? When you feel violated in the workplace as a result of a company policy, managerial style or coworkers’ actions, you may think there is nothing you can do. Luckily, you have rights and can easily refer to the provincial laws overseen by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour to determine if the issue you are facing violate your rights. The three laws mentioned below are readily available online and should exist in some form in your workplace. They explain rights and responsibilities as a worker and foster fair workspaces, empowering you to protect yourself at work.

Employment Standards Act (ESA)

ESA protects workers and workplaces from exploiting each other by outlining and enforcing the minimum standards employees and employers must adhere to in Ontario workplaces. Some of these standards include minimum wages, overtime pay, holidays, work hours, vacation time and pay, and termination. Although this act applies to most Ontario employees and employers, including most young worker and newcomers, there are exceptions to who is covered by ESA in Ontario based on factors such as industry. All exceptions can be found here.

Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)

OHSA protects workers from health and safety (H&S) hazards in the workplace by obligating all Ontario employers to create safe working environments and detailing the safety rights of all Ontario employees. It also outlines procedures for dealing with H&S hazards. Some of your basic rights under OHS are the right to know all of the potential safety hazards in your new workplace; the right to participate in health and safety inspections to identify and rectify hazards as an H&S representative; and the right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment with H&S hazards.

Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects workers against harassment in the workplace and discrimination based on race, age, citizenship, sexual orientation, disability, marital status and more. If you experience discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you can contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). There are several steps in this process, which briefly include submitting an application, participating in a potential mediation and/or hearing and adhering to the Tribunal’s final decision based on the OHRC. HRTO provides legal services to some applicants.

Course Information


Course Instructor

Tatenda Nzuma Tatenda Nzuma Author
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