Authority of an Employment Standards Officer (Ontario)
If an employee feels that they have been wronged according to the Employment Standards Act (ESA), they may report this to the Ministry of Labour (MOL). Ensuring an investigation, the MOL will appoint an Employment Standards Officer (ESO) to settle the claim made by the employee. Upon doing so, an ESO has the following authority under the ESA:
- to enter and inspect any workplace (except for a personal dwelling)
- interview/question any person on matters that may be relevant
- demand the production of records and to examine those records and remove them for review and/or copying
- require parties to attend meetings with the ESO for purposes of advancing the investigation of a claim or an inspection
When the investigation concludes with an order by the ESO for the employer to compensate the employee, the ESO may issue an additional penalty if the employer fails to comply. The penalty is an additional $100 or a 10% administration fee of the total amount ordered, whichever is greater. Monetary damages may also include wages that would have been earned in the absence of the contravention, damage for pain and suffering and any other reasonable damages the ESO foresees.
Further, besides monetary compensation, a compliance order may be issued for corrective measures. Compliance orders may consist of reinstatement of employment (in exceptional circumstances), a cease order, and tickets issued under the Provincial Offences Act, among other things. Compliance orders may be enforced by an injunction and are commonly used for correcting violations found during an investigation. Overall, employers must ensure that they are up-to-date on the ESA and that workplace policies and practices do not run afoul of the ESA.