If you are working in Ontario and your employer owes you money, such as overtime pay, vacation pay, or termination pay, you can file a claim with the Ontario Ministry of Labour (Ministry) under the Employment Standards Act. The deadline to make a claim for unpaid wages is 6 months and the maximum amount the Ministry can award you is $10,000.00.
The Employment Standards Act cannot deal with employees who are federally regulated. You should speak to a lawyer if you are not sure if you are federally or provincially regulated.
If you were fired from your employment, you may be owed termination pay. You have the option of making a claim with the Ministry under the Employment Standards Act or suing for wrongful dismissal in Small Claims Court or Superior Court. You should speak with a lawyer about your rights.
There are four steps you must follow to file an Employment Standards claim:
Contact your employer about the issue
Collect important documents related to your claim
Fill out the claim form
Send your claim form to the Ministry of Labour and get your claim submission number
If your employer owes you money, the Ministry wants you to first contact your employer about the money you believe you are owed. You should do this in writing and keep a copy of the letter you send for your records. Give your employer 7 to 10 days to respond before you move forward with filing your claim. You can get the claim form and more information about filling out the form on the Ministry website: www.labour.gov.on.ca. There are some situations where you will not have to contact your employer before filing a claim. These include if you are afraid to contact your employer, if the employer’s business has closed down, or if the money you believe you are owed was due 5 months ago or more.
Once you have contacted your employer, gathered the important documents that you need for your claim, and filled out the claim form, you must send it to the Ministry.
The Ministry recommends that you file your claim online because you will receive a claim submission number immediately, but you may also file it by fax at 1-888-252-4684, in person at a Service Ontario Centre closest to you, or by mail to the Provincial Claims Centre, Ministry of Labour, 70 Foster Drive, Suite 410, Roberta Bondar Place, Sault Ste Marie, ON, P6A 6V4. Make sure to write your name on the envelope and on each page that you mail.
If you have any questions about filing a claim or any rights you have as a worker, you can contact the Employment Standards Information Centre toll free at 1-800-531-5551, and for the Deaf, TTY: 1-866-567-8893. You can also speak to a lawyer or call your local community legal clinic.
Alternatively you can visit the Ministry of Labour’s website (www.labour.gov.on.ca) to learn more about Ontario’s Employment Standards or the Workers’ Action Centre (www.workersactioncentre.org/). You may also wish to visit http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/employment-and-work and/or (www.communitylegalcentre.ca/legal_information/WR/ES/Links.htm) for information and links to these and other resources.
This column is not intended to provide legal advice; it is just general legal information provided by volunteer local lawyers and the staff of community legal clinics and Legal Aid Ontario. The law can change. You must contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations. If you are living on a low income, you may be eligible for free legal help from Legal Aid Ontario (criminal, family or immigration) or your local community legal clinic (income security programs, employment law, tenants’ rights, or human rights). You can reach Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 or visit them online at www.legalaid.on.ca. Contact Rural Legal Services, your local community legal clinic at (613) 279-3252 or toll free at 1-888-777-8916 for more information.