Unfortunately, this is a question that is all too commonly asked by our clients. In our experience, the basis for suing an employer stems from an unsafe, unprofessional, and/or a difficult working environment. Specifically, our clients are dealing with issues of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
The courts have taken a strong stance against bullying and harassment. However, the question is, can you sue your employer for the bullying and harassment that you have been the victim of, whether it is by an employer or co-worker?
The answer is, maybe.
If you are not part of a union, and there is nothing in your contract to say otherwise, you can sue your employer if you feel they have not taken steps to adequately address the problem and challenges that you are experiencing.
If you are a member of a union, then you are bound to the grievance process as described in your collective bargaining agreement. You can file a grievance with your union, and they will address the problem(s) as best as they see fit. The union acts on your behalf, as they are the entity that has contracted with the company that you work for. It is the union’s job to advocate for you on your behalf as they have a duty of fair representation. As the union is advocating for you, your own lawyer may not be allowed in those proceedings. This requires the union’s permission. When you do file a grievance, the union advocates for you against the company. Your lawyer will have to contact the union to seek permission for his/her attendance in the process.
There have been cases across Canada where unionized employees have felt that they were not represented well by their union. In order to dispute this, you must show that the union failed in their duty to represent you.
Where do you go if the union has failed you?
If the union has failed you, you can bring your matter forward to a labour relations board. In these matters, you can obtain your own counsel, and unlike the grievance process, you now are bringing an action against the union. There are various labour relations boards; you can bring your matter to the Labour Relations Board if you work for a provincial company, here in British Columbia. If you work for a federal company, you can bring your matter forward to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. If you work in the public sector, you can bring your matter forward to the Public Service Labour Relations Board.
Whether you are a unionized employee or not, our experienced lawyers will strongly advocate for you, will guide you through the process, work directly with you, and help bring final resolution to your situation.