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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.

Note

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 labour standards complaint

There are 2 ways for a worker to file a labour standards complaint:

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

Important

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 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 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.

Mediation

When a complaint is filed, the CNESST offers a free mediation service to the worker and their employer. They are free to accept or refuse mediation.

If mediation is refused or if an agreement cannot be reached, other options are proposed to try to resolve the situation.

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 worker and their employer may reach an agreement, in accordance with the Act, to resolve the situation. The CNESST will then stop its intervention.

The Loi sur les commissions d’enquête and the Loi sur les normes du travail (LNT) provides 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 worker has 30 days to contest the decision by completing the  Request for review of the decision form.

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

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.

Important

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

Important

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 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

Laws and regulations

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