Complaint concerning psychological or sexual harassment
In the event of psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace, workers may file a complaint with the CNESST.
If the harassment led to a psychological injury certified by a physician, the person who filed a complaint could be compensated by the CNESST following a review of their file. In this case, the person is advised to make a work accident claim and file a complaint for psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace.
A complaint may also be filed with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse if it concerns discriminatory behaviour.
Please read our examples. They will help you recognize situations of psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace.
How the complaints process works
Filing a complaint
To be admissible, the complaint must be filed within 2 years of the date of the last incident of harassment.
Analysis of the complaint
Once the complaint is filed, the CNESST contacts the person who filed the complaint to verify whether the complaint is admissible. Among other things, it makes sure that:
- the person who files a complaint is protected by law
- if the person files a complaint concerning their training period, the CNESST will verify whether they are protected by the Act respecting labour standards (ALS) or the Act to ensure the protection of trainees in the workplace (French only)
- their employer is subject to the ALS or, if applicable, the respondent is subject to the act person’s recourse is based on
- the person has no other recourses under a collective agreement or other act
- the complaint was filed within the time limit prescribed by law
If the complaint is admissible, the CNESST notifies the person who filed the complaint and checks whether the disagreement can be resolved by communicating with the employer, for example by explaining the standards that apply. If this is not possible, a number of options are provided for to try to resolve the situation.
If the complaint is inadmissible, the CNESST notifies the person who filed the complaint and explains the reasons. If the person disagrees with the decision, they have 30 days to contest it by completing the Application for review of decision form. The CNESST has 30 days to respond.
The names of witnesses or any other people met with in the course of a psychological or sexual harassment investigation will remain confidential.
If the CNESST decides not to follow up on the complaint after investigation, the person who filed the complaint may nonetheless request that their complaint be referred to the Tribunal administratif du travail. In these circumstances, the CNESST will not represent the person and they must secure the services of a lawyer of their choice.
Transfer of the file to the CNESST’s legal affairs department
A complaint concerning psychological or sexual harassment is heard by the Tribunal administratif du travail. If the judge determines that the complaint is founded and that the employer has not fulfilled their obligations, they may order the employer to:
- the worker in their job with all their rights and privileges
- the trainee in their training period with all their rights and privileges
- pay the worker or trainee an indemnity corresponding to the wages and benefits lost as a result of the sanction received, where applicable
- take reasonable steps to put an end to the harassment
- pay the worker or trainee punitive and moral damages and interest
- pay for the psychological support required by the worker or trainee for a reasonable period determined by the judge
- amend the worker's or trainee's disciplinary record
- render any other decision they consider fair and reasonable in the circumstances
Measures adapted to the particular situations of trainees may be imposed by the Tribunal administratif du travail to remedy the harm that may have been caused to them.
Any employer, educational institution or professional body who contravenes the Act to ensure the protection of trainees in the workplace (French only) is liable to a fine.