Whistleblower laws exist to protect employees who disclose
wrongdoing within their organizations. This legislation prohibits
an employer from taking any reprisal, such as discipline or
termination, against an employee who blows the whistle on employer
misconduct, wherever whistleblower legislation is in force.
Whistleblower legislation in Canada is more prevalent in the
public sector, where employees in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, New
Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and the federal public service are
protected. In the private sector, only employees in Saskatchewan
and New Brunswick are protected under those provinces'
employment statutes. In addition to specific whistleblower laws,
provincial occupational health and safety laws provide employees
with whistleblower protection with respect to disclosing dangerous
working conditions and safety concerns (for example, section 50 of
the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)).
The Criminal Code also provides protection for employees,
as section 425.1 makes it a criminal offence for employers to take
reprisal against employees who provide information to law
enforcement officials about their employer's criminal
Although whistleblower laws protect employees from reprisal, a
recent decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)
suggests that there is a "right way to blow the
In Kalac v Corrosion Service Ltd, the
employee was a professional engineer employed in a managerial
position with the company. A few months into his employment, he
began sending aggressive e-mails to senior management identifying
gaps in the company's safety procedures and training. The
company held meetings to try and address the employee's
concerns, but he was dissatisfied with the company's response
and the threatening e-mails and aggressive interactions with
management continued. The employee was terminated and brought a
reprisal application to the OLRB under the OHSA. In upholding the
employee's termination and dismissing the complaint, the OLRB
recognized the importance of whistleblower protection, but
the adjudicator identified limits: "employees must have
the right to act forcefully to ensure health and safety is not
compromised. That being said, the normal workplace rules regarding
decorum and respectfulness apply." The OLRB was convinced on
the evidence that: "...the company terminated the
applicant's employment because he acted in a disrespectful and
threatening manner to other members of management and for no other
The OLRB upheld the employee's termination, despite the fact
that the employee's misconduct arose out of statements made to
the employer regarding safety concerns, which would generally be
protected under the "no reprisal" rule, under section 50
of the OHSA. Despite this decision, the force of section 50
of the OHSA remains important. Where an employee alleges that the
employer took reprisal against the employee for disclosing
workplace health and safety issues, the onus is on the employer to
demonstrate that no part of its decision to impose discipline was
tainted by the employee's exercise of his or her rights under
the OHSA. However, the decision in Kalac demonstrates that
there are limits to the whistleblower protection, and the
whistleblower laws will not shield an employee from discipline when
the employee's behaviour is aggressive, abusive and
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