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Wage complaint

Workers may file a complaint if they believe their employer is not paying them wages or other amounts of money provided for by law.

The CNESST may claim unpaid amounts of money from the employer, such as:

The monCalcul tool can be used to calculate certain amounts a worker is entitled to receive. Do not hesitate to use it.

A worker who believes that their employer is paying them a lower wage than the one paid to other workers performing the same tasks in the same establishment simply because of their employment status (e.g. part-time) may also file a complaint. An employer cannot pay a worker a lower hourly wage simply because that person works fewer hours per week.

How the complaints process works

Before filing a complaint

A worker who wants to file a complaint must:

  1. prepare a version of events in support of their complaint
  2. have in their possession, if possible, documents in support of their complaint

Documents to support the complaint

Depending on the situation, the documents to prepare if the employer did not pay the worker are as follows.

Irrespective of the reason for the complaint
  • Any communications with the employer relating to the facts of the complaint (emails, text messages, social media)
Wages (hours worked and overtime at the premium rate)
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements covering the period in question
  • Details of days and hours worked
  • Employment contracts
Tips
  • Tip-sharing arrangement
  • Details of tips earned and not paid
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements covering the period in question
  • Details of days and hours worked
  • Any other relevant proof (e.g., tips register or tips statement)
Commissions and bonuses
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements covering the period in question
  • Employment contracts
  • Company policy on the payment of commissions and bonuses
  • Details and proof of unpaid commissions and bonuses
Termination of employment indemnity
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements
  • Record of employment
  • Letter of dismissal and any other correspondence and communications relating to the events
Vacation indemnity
  • Dates vacation was taken
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements covering the period in question
  • Tax slips (T4 or R1)
  • Record of employment (in the case of termination of employment)
Statutory holiday indemnity
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements covering the statutory holidays
  • Pay slips covering the 4 weeks prior to this period or the 12 weeks prior to this period if paid by commission 
  • Details of days and hours worked during the week including the statutory holidays
Indemnity for days of absence (illness and family reasons)
  • Pay slips and/or bank statements covering the days of absence
  • Pay slips covering the 4 weeks prior to this period or the 12 weeks prior to this period if paid by commission
  • Details of days and hours worked during the week including the days of absence
Other situations
  • Pay slips covering the period in question
  • Record of employment
  • Invoices related to work expenses
If the employer is bankrupt
  • Copy of the proof of claim filed with the insolvency trustee
  • Wage Earner Protection Program documents specifying the indemnities paid
  • Record of employment
  • Pay slips
  • Employment contract
  • Tax slips (T4 or R1)
  • Record of hours worked and details of the amounts claimed
  • Any other relevant documents

Filing a complaint

A person who wishes to file a complaint can complete the File a complaint questionnaire. If the complaint is admissible, they will be directed to the appropriate instructions for filing an official complaint.

There are several steps in the complaints process. Throughout the process, the person who filed a complaint is asked to cooperate with various CNESST officers, in particular by providing the information and documents requested.

Representation of trainees

Trainees who complete 1 of the following 2 types of training periods may be represented:

  • training period required to obtain a permit to practice issued by a professional order
  • training period that is part of a study program

With their consent, a complaint may be filed on their behalf by:

  • a non-profit student rights organization
  • a pupil or student association
  • a group of pupil or student associations

Important

The worker has 1 year from the time the amounts are due to file a complaint with the CNESST.

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 grounds for the complaint are provided for in the Loi sur les normes du travail (LNT)
  • the worker is an employee within the meaning of the LNT
  • their employer is subject to the LNT 
  • the person has no other recourses under a collective agreement or other act 
  • the complaint was filed within the time limit prescribed by the LNT

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.
 

Important

If the CNESST can follow up on the complaint, it will contact the employer and ask them to pay the amount owed to the worker. If the employer refuses to pay, a person mandated by the CNESST will investigate.

Investigation

The CNESST conducts an investigation to verify the merits of a complaint.

The role of the person mandated to conduct an investigation is to collect, verify and examine the information used to build a complete case in the event of legal action.

At any time during the investigation, the parties may reach an agreement, in accordance with the law, to resolve the situation. The CNESST will then stop its intervention.

The Act respecting public inquiry commissions and the Act respecting labour standards provide specific powers to the person mandated to conduct the investigation. If the person deems it relevant, they may:

  • visit and inspect an employer's workplace or establishment at a reasonable time
  • request information and documents
  • communicate with any person who could provide or verify information

If the investigation shows that the complaint is unfounded, the person who filed the complaint has 30 days to contest the decision by completing the Application for revision of decision form.

If the investigation shows that the complaint is founded, the CNESST refers the complaint to the Direction des affaires juridiques.

Important

If the investigation shows that the complaint is founded and if the worker and the employer are unable to reach an agreement, the CNESST sends a claim to the employer. The employer has 10 days to pay. If the employer does not pay within the time limit, the CNESST sends a demand letter. If the employer still does not pay, the CNESST may take legal action against the employer to obtain payment on behalf of the worker.

Transfer of the file to the CNESST’s legal affairs department

Important

The CNESST's lawyer sends a demand letter to the employer. The employer then has 20 days to pay. Otherwise, legal proceedings will be notified to the employer by bailiff and filed in the court record in order to initiate legal action.

The wage complaint case is heard by the Cour du Québec or the Superior Court, depending on the amounts claimed.

Laws and regulations

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