​The right to refuse to work

What about the right to refuse to work?

What are a worker's options?

Under current legislation, a worker has a right to refuse to perform work that would expose him or another person to danger to his health, safety or physical well-being. The worker may not exercise this right, however, if his refusal to perform the work puts the life, health, safety or physical well-being of another person in immediate danger (example, a firefighter on duty). The worker must immediately notify his or her superior (or an employer representative), indicating the reasons for the refusal to work. He or she must notably remain on the work premises, to perform any other tasks that may be necessary.

What are an employer's options?

The employer convoke the worker's representative (prevention representative, union representative or designated employee). The employer and the worker's representative then assess the situation, with the aim of proposing solutions and taking any necessary corrective measures.

In the event of a disagreement

If the employer and worker's representative do not concur as to the hazard or a given solution, they can ask that a CNESST inspector intervene. If the worker continues to believe there is a hazard, he can uphold his position (refusal to work) and require the intervention of a CNESST inspector. The CNESST inspector shall determine immediately whether or not a danger exists that would justify the worker's refusal to work. The inspector's decision is effective immediately, and must be respected even if the parties do not agree with it. The employer and the worker or worker's representative have the option of requesting that the CNESST review the decision in question.

Other information on the right to refuse to work

In certain situations, an employer can ask another worker to replace the worker who is exercising his or her right to refuse to work. In such a case, the employer must inform the replacement worker of the other worker's refusal to work and the grounds thereof. This worker may then accept or refuse to perform the work in question.

A worker may not be dismissed because he or she exercises his or her right to refuse to work. The worker will continue to be paid, and may in no way be penalized or punished.

If an employer feels that a worker is abusing of this right, it is responsible for proving that this is the case.