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Mississauga & Oakville Employment Lawyers Advising Employers on Workplace Investigations

Business owners who have employees working for them have many obligations they must comply with vis-a-vis those employees. Among those numerous responsibilities is the prompt and effective investigation of all complaints of discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace.

In addition to investigations that employers and business owners are obligated to carry out where there has been a complaint, they may also be subject to external investigations by Employment Standards Officers from the Ministry of Labour in certain circumstances.

Understanding how to carry out a successful investigation in your workplace or understanding what you must do during a Ministry of Labour or other investigation is key to minimizing risk and liability and ensuring the continued successful functioning of your venture. Investigations should never be undertaken without first consulting with a knowledgeable employment lawyer who has experience advising employers and business owners on such matters.

At Bader Law in Oakville, our team of trusted employment counsel has been advising business owners on workplace investigations and related matters for over a decade. We help businesses of all sizes and across all sectors in Oakville, Mississauga, and across Ontario. Our clients range from family-owned services companies to medium-sized software, technology, manufacturing, and industrial service companies with more than one hundred employees and annual revenues exceeding $50 million across multiple jurisdictions. We are very proud of the long-lasting relationships we have built with many businesses who regularly consult with us on employment matters as well as corporate law and other issues.

Investigations Employers Are Obligated to Carry Out

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers and business owners in Ontario have an obligation to maintain a workplace free of violence and harassment, including sexual harassment. To do so, they must be proactive in addressing potential risks, have up to date policies in place, train all employees on those policies, promptly investigate and address complaints, and take appropriate corrective action once their investigation is complete.

Employers who are found to be in contravention of their obligation to investigate and address harassment and violence can be subject to fines or other penalties by the Ministry of Labour and risk having a human rights complaint filed against them, which can result in further financial liability.

Investigations by the Ministry of Labour

The Ministry of Labour employs inspectors known as Employment Standards Officers whose job it is to, among other things, ensure that employers are complying with their obligations under the Employment Standards Act and the OHSA.

Employment Standards Act Investigations

Where a complaint is filed by an employee claiming basic employment standards are not being met, an Employment Standards Officer can show up at the workplace or business in question and can review that employer’s day to day practices, including a review of their payroll and other relevant records. Employers must cooperate with investigations and provide Officers with all documents requested.

Employment Standards Officers have the authority to levy penalties and fines to an employer or business based on the results of the investigation.  Potential consequences include:

  • An order to pay unpaid wages;
  • An order to reinstate an employee;
  • A ticket; or
  • A notice of contravention.

Occupational Health and Safety Investigations

The OHSA sets out minimum health and safety standards for most workplaces in Ontario. It protects workers against potential dangers at work, including both physical hazards as well as violence and/or harassment. The Ministry of Labour can send inspectors to inspect businesses and ensure they are in compliance with the OHSA.

These inspectors have wide-ranging powers, including the power to:

  • Turn up at a workplace (can be unannounced) and inspect it;
  • Issue orders where they see any OHSA violations;
  • Investigate accidents and work refusals; and
  • Recommend prosecution where there are serious OHSA

Failure of an employer to comply with the OHSA can result in substantial fines and other very serious consequences, including jail time. Maximum penalties for OHSA breaches are:

  • A fine of up to $25,000 for an individual person and/or up to 12 months imprisonment;
  • A fine of up to $500,000 for a corporation

Bader Law: Helping Business Owners Ensure Compliance with Employment Standards and Workplace Safety in Mississauga & Oakville & Across Ontario

The lawyers at Bader Law in Oakville regularly assist business owners and entrepreneurs in ensuring compliance with their legal obligations, including maintaining employment standards and health and safety in the workplace. Contact us online or at (289) 652-9092 to learn what we can do for you and your business.