Filing an Employment Standards Claim
covered under the Employment
Standards Act, 2000 (ESA)
may file a claim with the Ministry of Labour if they believe their
employer is not complying with the law.
Employees can phone the Employment Standards
Information Centre for assistance in identifying and defining issues under
the ESA and
and finding ways to resolve them at:
toll free in Ontario at 1-800-531-5551
TTY (for hearing impaired) 1-866-567-8893
Please note, the Employment
Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (Live-in Caregivers and Others), 2009("EPFNA")
is a different law from the Employment
Standards Act, 2000.
If you are concerned
about an Employment
Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (Live-in
Caregivers and Others), 2009 violation, you must file an EPFNA claim
using the correct claim form. You can access anEPFNA claim
form on the MOL's
When an Employee Cannot File a Claim
There are two situations in which an employee who is covered by the ESA
cannot file a claim with the Ministry of Labour:
When an employee is represented by a trade
Generally speaking, employees represented by a union cannot file a
claim. These employees—if they are covered by a collective agreement
and whether or not they are actually members of the union—must use the
grievance procedure contained in the collective agreement between the
employer and the trade union.
When an employee has filed a claim in a
court of law
An employee cannot file a claim with the Ministry of Labour for a
failure to pay wages or discrimination in benefit plans if the
employee has already started a court action against the employer for
the same matter.
In addition, an employee who has started a court action for wrongful
dismissal cannot file a claim for termination or severance pay under
the ESA with respect to the same termination/severance of employment.
An employee with questions about whether it is best to file a claim or
to sue the employer in court may wish to consult a lawyer before
filing a claim.
Employees also need to be aware that if they have filed a claim with
the Ministry of Labour for unpaid wages, benefits, or termination or
severance pay that he or she must withdraw the claim within two weeks
of the date of filing it with the Ministry if the employee intends to
start a court action with respect to those unpaid wages, benefits, or
alleged wrongful dismissal. This applies even if the employee's claim
is for more than the $10,000 maximum wages that an employer can be
ordered to pay by an employment standards officer.
Note that the restrictions on pursuing a claim through both the courts
and with the Ministry of Labour do not apply to claims filed with the
Ministry of Labour for compensation or reinstatement (for example,
where a claim is filed for a violation of the pregnancy, parental,
emergency, family medical leave, or reprisal provisions of the ESA).
Filing a Claim
Employees can get a
copy of the Employment Standards Claim
on the Ministry of Labour's website (www.labour.gov.on.ca)
by mail through ServiceOntario Publications; or
in person at a ServiceOntario Centre.
The ministry has published a Claim Form Guide with detailed instructions
about the completion of the Claim Form.
There are four steps
that must be followed in order to file a claim. For detailed information
on each of these steps, please see the Claim
In general, employees must try to contact their employer or former
employer (or the client of a temporary help agency, if applicable) about
the employment standards right(s) they believe have been violated and the
amount of money they are owed.
This step may not apply to everyone. For more information on reasons why
employees may not need to contact their employers, please see "Reasons
Employees May Not Have to Contact Their Employer" below.
Employees are encouraged to collect important documents about their work
histories before completing the claim form. Having these documents close
at hand helps claimants fill out the Claim Form.
Employees must fill out the required information on the Claim Form. In
completing the Claim Form, the employee must give details about:
contact information for the claimant;
contact information for the employer;
which minimum standards were violated (i.e., the employer did not pay
overtime; the employee did not receive severance pay);
when it happened (dates and times); and
what is being claimed (including dollar amounts, if applicable).
In addition, the employee will be asked to give information about the
employer, such as:
whether the employer is still operating; and
whether the employer conducts business at other establishments or
operates using any other name(s).
It is recommended that an employee file his or her claim submission
online. He or she will receive a claim submission number immediately.
Employees may also file a claim:
In person at a ServiceOntario
By mail to:
Provincial Claims Centre
Ministry of Labour
70 Foster Drive, Suite 410
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
By fax: 1-888-252-4684.
Note: If an employee files a claim
submission by fax, in person, or by mail, he or she will receive a
letter in the mail with the claim number once all of the required
information has been verified. If the claim submission is missing
required information, the employee will receive a letter in the mail
with the claim submission number and a request to provide the
A claim submission number is assigned as soon as the ministry receives and
registers your Claim Form. You will be provided with a claim number and
your claim will be assigned for investigation once the ministry has
verified that all required information has been completed.
A claim should only be filed once. For example, if an employee filed his
or her claim online, the employee should not send another copy of the
Claim Form to the Ministry of Labour.
Reasons Employees May Not Have to Contact Their Employer
In general, employees are required to try to
contact their employer about their employment standards issue before their
claim will be assigned for investigation. The following are examples of
situations where employees may not be
required to contact their employers:
The employee already tried to contact his or her employer
The money owed to the employee became due five months ago
or more (there are time limits for recovery).
The workplace has closed down.
The employer has gone bankrupt or in receivership.
The employee is afraid to do so.
The issue does not involve money.
The employee is or was working as a live-in caregiver.
The employee has difficulty communicating in the language
spoken by his or her employer.
The employee is a young worker.
The employee has a disability that prevents or makes it
difficult to contact his or her employer
The reason is related to a ground under the Ontario Human
If none of the reasons listed above describe the employee's situation and
he or she still feels that there is a good reason not to contact the
employer about the issue, the employee will have an opportunity to provide
an explanation on the Claim Form.
For more information, please contact the Employment Standards Information
Centre at 416-326-7160 or 1-800-531-5551.
Investigation, Enforcement and Appeals
Once a claim submission has been filed, it is reviewed to ensure that all
the required information has been provided. If the Claim Form includes all
required information, the claim is assigned to an employment standards
officer for investigation. If the claim submission is missing required
information, the employee will be contacted by the ministry. The claim
submission will not be assigned for investigation unless the required
information is provided within the stated period of time.
During the investigation of a claim, the employee will be asked to provide
some or all of the following:
Copies of pay stubs or paycheques
Copies of T4 slips
A copy of his or her written notice of termination (if the employee's
employment was terminated and/or severed by the employer and notice
A copy of the employee's Record of Employment, if received
A copy of the contract of employment, if there is one
Copies of any warning letters or notices received
A record of the hours worked if available (e.g.,
a calendar record, time sheets, attendance records, diary or notes)
The documents must be provided in the time period set out by the
employment standards officer.
Please refer to the chapter entitled "Role
of the Ministry of Labour" for information
on topics such as:
how an investigation is conducted;
the kinds of actions an employment standards officer or the ministry
may take; and
how an employee may appeal an officer's decision.
Maximum Amount of Money an Employer Can Be Ordered to Pay
With some exceptions, $10,000 is the maximum
amount the Ministry of Labour can order an employer to pay an employee.
However, this limit does not apply to claims under those parts of the ESA in
which reinstatement and/or compensation can be ordered (for example, parts
dealing with leaves of absence, the right of an employee not to be
penalized for exercising his or her rights under the ESA,
such as a retail employee's right to refuse to work a public holiday).
Time Limits Regarding Claims
Six month/twelve months limit for recovering wages:
With two exceptions, an employee must file a claim with the Ministry of
Labour within six months of the date the wages became due in order to
The first exception to this rule deals with vacation pay. Unpaid
vacation pay may be recovered if the claim is filed within 12 months
of the date the vacation pay came due (rather than 6 months).
The second exception is where an employment
standards officer finds that an employer has violated the same section
of the ESA more
than once, with respect to an employee. If at least one of the
violations occurred in the six-month period before the claim was
filed, the employee will be entitled to recover the wages due for all
violations of the same provision that occurred in the 12-month period
before the claim was filed.
When wages are due
Generally, wages, except vacation pay, become due on the employee's
regular pay day. However, if the employment was terminated by the
employer, all the wages owed to the employee (including any unpaid
vacation pay as of the date of termination) are due either within seven
days of the termination, or on what would have been the employee's next
regular pay day, whichever is later.
A typical case
Nhan was employed as a technician for just over three years. His
employment was terminated because of a shortage of work on February 1.
His next regular pay day would have fallen on February 12. Nhan was
given proper notice of his termination but was not paid his last
week's wages. On August 30 he filed a claim for those wages. An
employment standards officer will investigate Nhan's claim. However,
the officer will not be able to issue an order to the employer to
recover Nhan's wages because those wages became due more than six
months before the date he filed his claim.
When there are repeated violations
Jenny was employed in a restaurant for just
over one year and was not paid for public holidays. She quit her job
and filed a claim with the ministry on January 5. In the six months
before her complaint was filed, Jenny should have been paid public
holiday pay for Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New
The employer repeatedly violated the public
holiday sections of the ESA by
not paying Jenny public holiday pay and at least one violation of the
public holiday provisions occurred within six months of the date Jenny
filed her claim.
Because of this, the employment standards investigation is not limited
to recovering wages that became due in the six-month period before the
date her claim was filed (January 5). It will be extended to recover
wages that became due to Jenny within 12 months from the date she
filed her claim. As a result, Jenny is also entitled to public holiday
pay for Canada Day, Victoria Day and Good Friday.
Two-year time limit for filing a claim:
Under the ESA,
generally all employees must file a claim within 2 years of the
contravention in order for the claim to be investigated by an employment
The above-mentioned 6 month/12 months limitations on recovery apply only
to an employee's ability to seek recovery of unpaid wages, including
vacation pay. In the case of other violations, an employment standards
officer is able to issue certain orders for up to two years after a
violation has occurred. This two-year time limit applies where:
believes an employer has violated a non-monetary section of the ESA for
example, the employer did not give proper meal breaks, failed to
provide wage statements, or if the violation relates to leaves of
absence, lie detectors and retail business employees' rights;
The employee is seeking compensation and/or
reinstatement in cases where for example, the employer has penalized
or threatened to penalize an employee for exercising rights under the ESA.
by a Client of a Temporary Help Agency."
Extending Time Limits:
Although the limitations on recovery of wages
and filing a claim are set out in the legislation and mandatory, it may be
possible to make a claim that would otherwise be outside the applicable
time limit if:
an employee has been misled as to his or
her entitlements under the ESA by
his or her employer and for that reason delayed in filing his or her
the employee took prompt steps to file a
claim after he or she found out that what the employer said about the ESA entitlement
An employer has stated that no overtime is
payable under theESA to
an employee in certain circumstances and the employee relies upon the
employer's statement and does not file a claim for overtime until
after he or she finds out from another source that overtime is payable
under the Act.
In such a case, an employment standards officer may rule that the time
limit that would otherwise not allow all or a portion of the claim
should be extended because the delay in filing the claim was caused by
the incorrect statement of the employer about the employee's ESAentitlements.