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As an employer, how should I respond to a work refusal by an employee?

In general, employees have a right to refuse to work if the work environment presents a hazard (subject to limited exceptions). If an employee reports the existence of a hazard within the workplace, the employer must immediately investigate to determine if there is a legitimate concern for safety.

Under no circumstances should an employer terminate, threaten to terminate, discipline, intimidate, or coerce an employee who makes a legitimate complaint. It does not matter whether the employee, or some other employee, was actually in danger, just whether the employee legitimately believed there was a danger. Due to the consequences following a reprisal by an employer, appropriate legal counsel should be obtained before dismissing an employee’s complaint as frivolous.

Employers should undertake a thorough investigation into any complaint or work refusal. The investigation should be conducted by legal counsel or someone with sufficient expertise in matters involving health and safety.

Throughout the process, the employer should keep thorough notes, complete an investigation report, make a decision, and take remedial action only after seeking counsel.

© 2015 Lawrence, Lawrence, Stevenson LLP

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