Reprisal

You believe you are suffering from reprisal because of a disclosure you made or because you participated as a witness in an investigation. Here are all the steps you can take to submit a reprisal complaint and more information about this .

 

Defining reprisals

A reprisal is any adverse act taken against you because you made a disclosure of wrongdoing or participated in an investigation. Reprisals can come in many forms, and may not always be obvious. Examples may include:

  • Reassignment, demotion or disciplinary action
  • Termination, discharge or dismissal
  • Any measure that adversely affects your employment or your working conditions
  • Passing over for projects or promotion 
  • Directly or indirectly threatening any of the above 

Again, in order to constitute reprisal, the adverse act taken against you must be as a result of you making a protected disclosure or participating in an investigation. 

Filing a complaint

If you believe you have been reprised against, the Office is here to help you. For it to be considered reprisal under the Act, there must be a link between the alleged reprisal actions and you making a disclosure of wrongdoing or participating in an investigation. 

You have 60 days from the time you become aware that you are being reprised against to file a complaint. This time period can be extended by the Commissioner depending on the circumstances of each case, so it is important to file a complaint even if the alleged reprisal occurred more than 60 days ago. 

The Commissioner must make a decision whether to investigate within 15 days of your complaint being filed and when we have all the necessary information to complete the assessment.  

If the investigation leads the Commissioner to believe a reprisal has occurred, he will refer the case to a tribunal composed of provincial and federal judges. The Tribunal has the power to order an appropriate remedy for you.

 

Deciding to make a complaint of reprisal 

Before deciding whether to file a complaint, we recommend you consult the following frequently asked questions:

 

How am I protected from reprisal?

What will the Tribunal do?

Am I protected from reprisal if I disclosed a wrongdoing internally and not directly to the Office?

Am I protected from reprisal if the wrongdoing that I disclosed is determined to be unfounded?

Am I protected from reprisal if I am not an employee in the federal public sector?

Are all reprisal complaints reviewed?

What happens after an investigation if the matter has not been settled?

What are the consequences for a public servant who has taken a reprisal?

Allegations of reprisal have been made against me. Do I have the right to be represented by counsel?

How does the Commissioner decide to extend the 60 day time period to make a complaint of reprisal?

 

How am I protected from reprisal?

Your identity will be protected. Unfortunately reprisal actions can occur. If you made a protected disclosure or participated as a witness in an investigation and reprisal actions have been taken against you, contact our Office as soon as possible. We have sole jurisdiction in handling reprisal complaints.

The Act states that you must contact the Office within 60 days of knowing that you have been reprised against. This time period can be extended by the Commissioner depending on the circumstances of each case, so it is important to file a complaint even if the alleged reprisal occurred more than 60 days ago.

The Commissioner must make a decision whether to investigate within 15 days of your complaint being filed and when we have all necessary information to complete the assessment.

If, after an investigation, the Commissioner has reasonable grounds to believe that reprisals occurred, he must refer the case to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal (theTribunal). The Tribunal is composed of judges of the Federal Court or a superior court of a province.


During the course of a reprisal investigation, if deemed appropriate, the Commissioner may suggest a voluntary conciliation between both parties. This means that you and the person who reprised against you could come to a resolution together. We can help you with this process.

 

What will the Tribunal do?

The Tribunal will decide if reprisal actions took place, and it has the power to order the appropriate remedy for you. The Tribunal can also order disciplinary sanctions against those who reprised against you, if requested by the Commissioner.

Anyone who takes reprisal action against you is committing an offence and could face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

It is important to note that once you make a reprisal complaint, and we launch an investigation into your complaint, your identity can no longer be kept confidential.  Your case also becomes public information if it goes before the Tribunal.

 

Am I protected from reprisal if I disclosed a wrongdoing internally and not directly to the Office?

Yes, whether you disclosed a wrongdoing internally to your organization or to our Office, you are protected from reprisal.

If you believe that a reprisal has been taken against you after you have made a disclosure of wrongdoing, you should contact our Office immediately. You must file a reprisal complaint within 60 days of the day on which you knew or ought to have known that the reprisal was taken. The Commissioner may extend this period if he believes that it is appropriate to do so considering the circumstances.

 

Am I protected from reprisal if the wrongdoing that I disclosed is determined to be unfounded?

Yes, the protection from reprisal applies to all protected disclosures made in good faith, even if they are determined to be unfounded after a review or investigation.

 

Am I protected from reprisal if I am not an employee in the federal public sector?

The Act provides protection from reprisal only for public servants or other specific individuals. 

It is an offence for any employer or public servant to take reprisals. Public servants cannot reprise against contractors, or recipients of grants or contributions, who disclosed to the Commissioner an alleged wrongdoing in the federal public sector. Public servants cannot terminate a contract, withhold payment or refuse to grant a future contract on that basis.

However, our Office does not have jurisdiction to deal with reprisal complaints outside the federal public sector. Non public servants who believe they have suffered reprisals may have their complaint dealt with through existing labour relations processes that apply to them or through civil or criminal recourses.

 

Are all reprisal complaints reviewed?

Yes, our Office reviews all complaints of reprisal carefully and as quickly as possible.

The Commissioner may refuse to deal with a reprisal complaint if:

  • the complaint has been dealt with, or could more appropriately be dealt with, according to another procedure (for example, a grievance process);
  • the complaint is beyond the jurisdiction of the Commissioner;
  • the complaint was not made in good faith.

In addition, the Commissioner cannot deal with a reprisal complaint if another person or body under another Act of Parliament or a collective agreement is dealing with it.
 
The Commissioner will notify the complainant in writing about any further action to be taken regarding the reprisal complaint.

In the event you make a complaint of reprisal and the Commissioner decides to investigate, you are precluded from commencing a grievance or any other procedure under an Act of Parliament, (s. 19.1 (4) of the Act).  

What happens after an investigation if the matter has not been settled?

If the reprisal complaint has not been settled through conciliation, after the investigation the Commissioner must either refer the matter to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal or dismiss the complaint.

 

What are the consequences for a public servant who has taken a reprisal?

A public servant who has taken a reprisal may be subject to administrative or disciplinary action including termination of employment.

 

Allegations of reprisal have been made against me. Do I have the right to be represented by counsel?

Yes. Any person involved in a reprisal complaint may be represented by a person of their choice, including legal counsel.

 

How does the Commissioner decide to extend the 60 day time period to make a complaint of reprisal?

The Office has put in place the Policy on the Time Limit for Making a Complaint of Reprisal in order to establish the standard against which the Commissioner's decison to reject a complaint or extend the time for filing would be reviewed.

2016-05-20