We are lucky to have laws in Alberta that protect us at work. There are many different laws but the big ones are:
- Employment Standards Code
- Employment Standards Regulation
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Occupational Health and Safety Regulation
- Occupational Health and Safety Code
- Alberta Human Rights Act
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the protections they have under the law. Here are some of the rights you might not know you have.
1. Your boss has to pay you for at least 3 hours of work – even if you were sent home early because there was not enough work to do.
If you worked for less than three hours, your employer must pay you at least minimum wage for three of hours of work (unless an exception applies – see below). A meal break of one hour or less is not part of the 3 consecutive hours of work. For example, if you work from 6pm to 9:30pm and take a one hour dinner break from 7pm to 8pm, your employer has to pay you for 3 hours even though you only worked for 2.5 hours.
If you worked for three hours or more, your employer must pay you for what you worked.
In some jobs, if you work less than 2 hours, your employer only has to pay for 2 hours of work. Those jobs are:
- part-time employees in recreational or athletic programs run by a city, town, Métis settlement or a not-for-profit community service organization;
- school bus drivers;
- students 13, 14, or 15 years of age employed when the student is required to attend school.
2. You have the right to (and should) refuse any work that is unsafe.
Yes! It is your right to refuse work that is a threat to you or your co-workers’ safety and is beyond what is normal for your job. The Occupational Health and Safety Act protects you from getting in trouble from your boss if you refuse unsafe work.
3.Your boss can’t take money from your pay cheque for broken items or shortages at the cash register.
Your boss is never allowed to deduct from your wages for broken items, faulty workmanship or shortages in the cash register (if anyone else had access to it). But… these rules do not apply to your tips.
For example, if you dropped a glass at work, your boss cannot take money from your wages to buy a new one. Your boss could, however, take money from your tips that evening to cover the cost of the glass.
4. If you have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months, you must be given vacation time and pay even if you don’t work full time.*
You start earning vacation pay as soon as you start working, no matter how long you’ve been working. You are entitled to vacation time after 12 months.
*Some types of jobs do not qualify. For more information about vacations and vacation pay, see these FAQs.
5. Your employer must make sure that you use appropriate safety equipment and that you know how to use it.
Your employer must make sure that your work is a safe environment and that you have the right safety equipment. Your employer also must make sure that you know how to do your job safely.
It’s okay for your boss to ask you to bring your own safety gear, like steel toe boots or hard hats. However, some types of safety equipment that protect against breathing hazards or noise levels exceeding legal limits must be given to you.
6. You have the right to be free from discrimination at work.
Discrimination occurs when you are treated unfairly or differently from your coworkers. The Alberta Human Rights Act is designed to protect individuals in Alberta from discrimination and harassment based on race, religious beliefs, colour, gender (including pregnancy), gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age (if you are 18 or over), ancestry, place of origin (where you were born), marital status, source of income, family status and sexual orientation.
If you think you are being discriminated against, you might be able to file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. For more information about filing a complaint, review our infographic.
7. Employers have a duty to accommodate an employee’s needs to the point of undue hardship.
Employers must accommodate an employee’s needs to the employer’s point of undue hardship. Undue hardship exists where accommodation becomes a burden for your employer, such as high financial costs or serious disruption to business.
This accommodation is for a need based on one of the protected grounds found in the Alberta Human Rights Act. Protected grounds include race, religious beliefs, colour, gender (including pregnancy), gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age (if you are 18 or over), ancestry, place of origin (where you were born), marital status, source of income, family status and sexual orientation.
8. It’s against the law to work for less than minimum wage, even if you agree to it.
It is against the law for an employer to pay you less than minimum wage, and it is against the law for you to work for less than minimum wage. You or your employer can be fined a substantial amount for breaking the law.
9. If you work more than 8 hours a day (or 44 hours per week) and are not part of an averaging arrangement, you are entitled to overtime pay.
Employees covered by the Employment Standards Code and not part of an averaging arrangement get overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours a day or 44 hours per week, whichever is greater. Overtime pay is 1.5 times your regular pay. For example, someone that makes $15 an hour would get paid $22.50 for each overtime hour.
Employees can make an overtime agreement with their employer. For example, instead of getting paid for overtime hours, an employee might get time off. As of September 1, 2019, your employer only has to give you one hour of time off for every hour of overtime worked. There are other rules for these types of agreement that your employer must follow.
Employers can also require or allow their employees to work an averaging arrangement. An averaging arrangement averages an employee’s hours over a period of 1 to 52 weeks to determine how much overtime pay or time off in lieu the employee is entitled to. Averaging agreements can be part of a collective agreement. There are other rules your employer must follow for these arrangements.
For some jobs, overtime for employees is calculated differently. For other jobs, employees do not get overtime. For more information, see CPLEA’s FAQs on overtime.
10. You cannot be fired for requesting something that you are entitled to or for making a complaint under the Employment Standards Code, Occupational Health and Safety Act or Alberta Human Rights Act.
The law gives you rights and responsibilities. It is important that you report employers if they are violating your rights. If you report your employers for breaking one of the laws listed above, you cannot be punished or fired by your boss.
If you are fired or punished for reporting, there are laws that set out procedures you can follow. Learn more about Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Last updated: November 2020
All of the materials on this page were funded by the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF). This project was a result of a research project funded by HREMF. The research report is available here.