What is a whistleblower?

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A whistleblower is a person who publicly discloses an illegal act within an organization.

In Canada, whistleblowers are protected under both federal and provincial laws. At the federal level, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act provides protection to federal government employees who disclose wrongdoing within their workplace. This Act requires employers to implement a code of conduct that includes civil safeguards for whistleblowers.

In BC, specific legislation dedicated solely to protecting whistleblowers is very limited. However, there are still legal protections available, primarily under existing labour and employment laws, as well as general laws governing public and private sector workplaces.

For example, the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) protects employees from retaliation by their employer for attempting to enforce their rights under the ESA or assisting the direction of Employment Standards in enforcing the rights provided by the ESA. If an employer retaliates or penalizes an employee for engaging in activities that are protected under the ESA, the employee may file a complaint against the employer for violation of the ESA. If the complaint is upheld, the employer may be ordered to reinstate the employee, compensate the employee for wages lost because of the employer’s contravention, and compensate the employee for their out-of-pocket expenses, among other remedies.

For public sector employees, there may be additional protections through internal policies or collective agreements that safeguard whistleblowers from retaliation.

Similarly, the BC Human Rights Code (the “HRC”) prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for making a complaint, or giving evidence, helping, or taking part in a complaint. Retaliation can include discharge, coercion, intimidation, or denying the employee rights or benefits to which they are entitled because the employee has filed a human rights complaint against the employer for breach of the HRC or because the employee is participating in a complaint or giving evidence against the employer.

Finally, employees in BC who report unsafe working conditions or violations of occupational health and safety laws are protected from retaliation under the Workers Compensation Act. Workers are protected from employers and unions retaliating against them for exercising their rights under health and safety laws. If this happens, workers can get compensation, or even get their jobs back, by filing a “prohibited action” complaint at WorkSafeBC.

If you believe that your employer has taken a prohibited action against you, contact Labour Rights Law to set up an initial consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers. Our lawyers can assess your case and explain your rights to you, allowing you to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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