Coronavirus & your rights at work

The Halifax Workers’ Action Centre created this infosheet to inform workers of their rights at work in the context of a pandemic (like coronavirus). Beneath the infosheet is additional information about Human Rights & OHS During COVID-19. Also, check out this guide for applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Human Rights & OHS During COVID-19

What can I do if I’m being bullied or harassed or not being scheduled as usual because “I look like someone who would have the virus”?

Acting on assumptions about employees based on what they look like / their assumed ethnic origin or background is contrary to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. If you aren’t being scheduled or are being bullied or harassed by your boss or coworkers on this basis, this is discriminatory. Your employer also has an obligation to take reasonable steps to provide a safe work environment under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act. This includes protecting you from bullying and harassment from anyone at all times.

Can I lose my job if I have to care for my children while schools are closed?

Employers have an obligation not to discriminate based on family status in respect of employment under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. Under normal circumstances, employees need to make best efforts to find appropriate child care, but those options will likely be more limited in this uncertain time. If you know or suspect your employment has been terminated because of your family care obligations, you may have grounds for a human rights complaint. In the meantime, you should be entitled to federal assistance, whether through EI, the improvements to the CCB, or the recently announced Emergency Care Benefit or the Emergency Support Benefit.

Can my employment be terminated if I get the virus?

Generally, seasonal colds and flus are not considered “disabilities” under human rights legislation in Canada, so there is no human rights protection when workers get seasonal illnesses. We don’t know for sure how COVID-19 will be treated, but it’s likely to be similar so yes it is possible to lose you job because you get sick. If your employment is terminated because you test positive, there are federal benefits available to you, including EI and other newly announced measures intended to help workers through this time.

My employer won’t let me wear gloves at work, do I have the right to do it anyway?

When workplaces have 5+ employees, the employer is obligated to facilitate employees selecting at least one non-management OHS representative. When workplaces have 20+ employees, the employer is obligated to have at least one Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Ideally your representative(s) will be able to advocate for you, because occupational health and safety needs are fact-specific. In most workplaces COVID-19 calls for additional safety measures, including increased cleaning and potentially additional Personal Protective Equipment such as gloves.