Complaint concerning psychological or sexual harassment
In the event of psychological or sexual harassment in the workplace, workers may file a labour standards complaint with the CNESST.
If the harassment resulted in a psychological injury certified by a physician, the worker could be compensated by the CNESST following a review of their file. In this case, the worker is advised to make a work accident claim and file a labour standards complaint.
If the complaint concerns discriminatory behaviour, a complaint may also be filed with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.
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
The worker has 2 years from the date of the last incident of harassment to file a complaint.
Analysis of the complaint
Once the complaint is filed, a member of the CNESST contacts the worker to verify whether the complaint is admissible. Among other things, they make sure that:
- the worker is an employee within the meaning of the Act respecting labour standards
- their employer is subject to the Act
- the person has no other recourse under a collective agreement or other act
- the complaint was filed within the time limit prescribed in the Act
If the CNESST can follow up on the complaint, it notifies the worker and checks whether the disagreement can be resolved by communicating with the employer, for example, to explain the standards that apply. If this is not possible, a number of options are provided for to try to resolve the situation.
If the CNESST considers that it cannot follow up on the complaint, it notifies the worker and explains why. If the person disagrees with the decision, they have 30 days to contest it by completing the Request for review of the decision form. The CNESST has 30 days to respond.
If the CNESST cannot follow up on the complaint, the worker may still request that their complaint be referred to the Tribunal administratif du travail. Under these circumstances, the CNESST will not represent the worker, who will have to secure the services of a lawyer of their choice.
The names of witnesses or any other people met with in the course of a psychological or sexual harassment investigation will not be disclosed under any circumstances.
If the CNESST decides not to follow up on the complaint after investigation, the worker may still request that their complaint be referred to the Tribunal administratif du travail. Under these circumstances, the CNESST will not represent the worker, who will have to 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 worker has been the victim of psychological or sexual harassment and that the employer has not fulfilled their obligations, they may, among other things, order the employer to
- reinstate the worker in their job
- pay the worker an indemnity equivalent to the wages lost, where applicable
- take reasonable steps to put an end to the harassment
- pay the worker punitive and moral damages and interest
- pay the worker an indemnity for loss of employment, where applicable
- pay for the psychological support required by the worker for a reasonable period (this period is determined by the judge)
- amend the worker's disciplinary record