Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Table of contents

    General information to know before filing

    What is the Canada Industrial Relations Board?

    The Canada Industrial Relations Board is an independent tribunal that hears and decides complaints, applications and appeals alleging non-compliance with labour, occupational health and safety and employment laws in federally regulated workplaces. It also hears and decides appeals of benefit decisions under the Wage Earner Protection Program Act. For more information on the Board, please visit the About Us page. 

    What is a federally regulated workplace?

    A federally regulated workplace is one that engages in business activities that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, such as businesses in the following industries: 

    • Air transportation and airports;
    • Banks;
    • Broadcasting;
    • Grain storage and distribution (wheat, etc.);
    • Postal services;
    • Shipping and navigation;
    • Telecommunications (telephone, television, Internet);
    • Transportation, interprovincial or international (by road, railway, ferry or pipeline); and
    • Uranium mining and processing.

    Crown corporations along with some Indigenous businesses in the provinces and territories also fall under federal jurisdiction for some purposes. For a more detailed explanation of what a federally regulated workplace is, please visit the section on federally regulated workplaces on the About Us page.

    I am working for an Indigenous employer. Can the Board help me? 

    If your workplace is under the control of an Indigenous band council in one of the provinces, the Board may have jurisdiction. If your employer is located in one of the territories, the Board has jurisdiction over the labour relations of the employer. For more information, please visit the section on federally regulated workplaces on the About Us page. 

    Determining whether an employer falls under federal or provincial jurisdiction can be a complicated process. The Industrial Relations Officer assigned to your file can advise you of the information that you will need to send to the Board so that it can make a decision. 

    I am a public servant working for the federal government. Can the Board help me? 

    It is likely that the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board has jurisdiction over your complaint. 

    The Canada Industrial Relations Board only hears appeals of decisions as to whether a danger exists in a federal public sector workplace (and whether a work refusal is justified) and whether a direction issued to an employer to remedy the danger is appropriate. 

    I am an artist. Can the Board help me? 

    Yes, if you are an independent artist who works for a federal government institution or in the broadcasting industry. For more information, please visit the page on the Status of the Artist Act.  

    If I am not working in a federally regulated workplace, where should I go? 

    If your workplace does not fall under one of the federally regulated workplaces and industries, it is likely that you work in a provincially regulated workplace. You can visit the Helpful Links page to find links to the websites of the provincial and territorial labour boards and departments responsible for employment standards and occupational health and safety.

    I want to file an application or a complaint. Where do I begin?  

    The “Where Do I Start?” link will take you through a series of questions and lead you to the information that you need to know in order to file an application or a complaint. 
    There are time limits for filing applications and complaints. Make note of them so that you can file on time.

    How can I consult a Board file?

    You can contact the Board by online inquiry or by phone. For more information, please visit the Contact Us page.

    Representation before the Board

    Do I have to be represented by a lawyer before the Board, or can I represent myself?

    Parties can represent themselves, or they can be represented by the person of their choice. If a party chooses to be represented, that party is responsible for paying the fees and disbursements of the representative in accordance with their agreement.

    The Board does not provide lawyers to assist parties. 

    Filing

    How do I file an application, a complaint, a request, or a document with the Board?

    Applications, complaints, requests and other documents are filed with the Board using its E-Filing Web Portal. Documents submitted using the Portal are filed directly in the Board’s centralized document filing system. 

    When using the Portal, you do not have to send a paper copy of the same document to the Board. 

    For more information, please visit our E-Filing page.

    What documents and information does the Board need?

    You are responsible for providing the Board with all relevant documents, information or evidence that will help the Board decide the case.

    The information that the Board needs depends on the type of complaint, application or appeal that it is hearing. 

    For more information, please visit the page concerning the relevant type of complaint, application or appeal and look under “How do I file my documents, representations, or evidence?”.

    You can also follow the “Where do I Start?” link, which will take you to the information for the relevant type of complaint, application or appeal.

    Can I file an audio or video recording?

    Most media file types are accepted when using the Board’s E-Filing Web Portal. You can upload video and audio recordings. However, just because a video or audio recording is filed does not mean that the Board will consider it. The submission of a video or audio recording is subject to special rules. For example, if a recording is made without the knowledge of one of the people participating in the conversation, the Board will likely not accept it.

    For more information and instructions, please contact the Industrial Relations Officer assigned to the file.

    Is the information that I file confidential?

    Parties who file documents with the Board are participating in a public hearing. This means that the documents that are in the file are available to the public.  

    If a party is concerned about some of the information that they are filing with the Board being available to the public, that person can ask the Board to issue a confidentiality order. If the request is granted, the information that is protected will not be available to the public. It will be available to the other parties. For more information, you can read the Board’s Policy on Openness and Privacy.

    What is the deadline for filing an application or a complaint?

    Different complaints and applications have different time limits for filing. If you file a complaint after the deadline indicated in the Code, you must explain why the deadline was not met. The Board may not accept a complaint or request received after the deadline. 

    The length of time for filing a complaint or an application depends on the type of complaint or application being filed. For more information, please visit the Starting an Application or Complaint page.

    You can use the “Where Do I Start?” link, which will take you through a series of questions and lead you to the information on the type of complaint or application that you are filing, including the time limits for filing that type of complaint or application. 
    Once the Board accepts a complaint or an application, it will advise you of the time limits for filing any additional documents and arguments. 

    I missed the deadline for filing my complaint or application.  What do I do?

    You will need to file your complaint or application as soon as possible after the expiry of the deadline.  You will need to explain to the Board why you missed the deadline. In other words, why you were not able to file your complaint or application on time. However, the Board may not accept a complaint or request received after the deadline.

    The Board’s process after filing

    Can I find out the status of my case?

    Yes, you can contact the Board by online inquiry or by phone. For more information, please visit the Contact Us page.

    What is an Industrial Relations Officer?

    Industrial Relations Officers (IROs) are Board representatives who work with the parties to help them understand the process and answer any questions that they have. 

    IROs are also trained mediators who will help the parties settle their dispute or some of the issues in dispute. Settlements are advantageous because the parties control the outcome, not the Board, and there is no need to wait for the file to be assigned to and heard by a Board member, which can take several months or longer.

    For more details on the role of the IROs, please see our page on Investigation and Mediation.

    I need more time to file a document. How do I get an extension of a deadline?

    If you need more time to file evidence and arguments, you should ask the other parties if they agree to an extension. You will need to write to the Board to ask for an extension of time and explain why it is necessary, or in other words, why you are or were not able to file your documents on time. You should also tell the Board how much longer you need and why.

    You must also tell the Board whether you have contacted the other parties and whether they consent to the request. 

    You can file your request with the Board by using the “filing a procedural request” option in the Board’s E-Filing Web Portal.

    Mediation

    Can I expect mediation?

    Yes. The Industrial Relations Officer (IRO) assigned to your case will contact the parties at an early stage of the complaint, application or appeal to discuss mediation. 

    Mediation is voluntary. Parties are encouraged to participate but do not have to.

    The IRO will monitor the file before and during the hearing and will be available to assist the parties to settle at any time.

    For more information, please visit the Mediation Process section on the Board’s Investigation and Mediation page.

    What are the advantages of mediation?

    There are many advantages to mediation: 

    • The parties control the issues and the outcome.  
    • A decision will not be issued and published by the Board.
    • It is confidential. The Industrial Relations Officer (IRO) will not disclose settlement discussions to the Board. 
    • It is flexible. It can take place anytime from when the IRO is assigned to the case until a decision is issued.
    • It is efficient. If the mediation is successful, the parties will avoid having to wait for the file to be assigned to and heard and decided by the Board, which can take several months, if not longer. It also avoids costly and time-consuming proceedings before the Board. Even if the mediation is unsuccessful, it can allow the parties to clarify and simplify the proceedings.

    For more information, please visit the Mediation Process section on the Board’s Investigation and Mediation page.

    Is interpretation provided at mediation?

    A party can request interpretation services for mediation. The Board provides this service free of charge. The interpretation service can be provided in many different languages, not just French and English. The parties must advise the Board in advance if they need this service.

    Case Management Conference

    What is a case management conference?

    A case management conference is a meeting between the Board and all parties to discuss a case in progress. For more information, please consult the Case Management Conference page.

    Is interpretation provided at a case management conference?

    A party can request interpretation services for pre-hearing procedures, including the case management conference, or for the hearing itself. The Board provides this service free of charge. The interpretation service can be provided in many different languages, not just French and English. The parties must advise the Board in advance if they need this service. 

    What if I need accommodation for a disability?

    Please see our page on Accessibility and Disability Accommodations for more information. Also, please advise the Industrial Relations Officer assigned to your file, as requests for accommodation must be presented to the Board as soon as possible in order for it to take the appropriate action.

    Hearing

    Can I expect a hearing?

    Not necessarily. The Board decides many complaints, applications and appeals based on the written submissions or arguments of the parties without a hearing. This is why it is very important that any written submissions be thorough and complete. 

    In the case of Wage Earner Protection Program appeals, the Board can only consider the evidence and documents that were before the Labour Program when it made its decision, so hearings are rarely held.

    For more information, please consult the Preparing for a Hearing page.

    Can I specifically request a hearing?

    Yes. Your request must be made in writing and include detailed reasons explaining why you think a hearing is required. It is up to the Board to decide whether a hearing will be held.

    For more information, please consult the Preparing for a Hearing page. 

    How will I know if the Board decides to hold a hearing?

    A letter will be sent to you advising you of the date, time and place of the hearing. Hearings can be virtual (using a platform such as Zoom) or in person. It is possible that you will be advised at a case management conference that the Board intends to hold a hearing.

    For more information, please consult the Hearings page.

    How do I postpone a hearing date?

    Requests to postpone hearings must be made to the Board in writing. 

    Before you ask the Board to postpone a hearing, you need to contact the other parties to obtain their consent and the dates that they are available for the rescheduled hearing. If they don’t consent, find out why. You can then send this information to the Board with your request. Be sure to tell the Board why you need a postponement. The Board will decide whether to grant it or not. 

    For more information, please consult the Preparing for a Hearing page.  

    What are authorities and jurisprudence?

    Jurisprudence or authorities are previous decisions of the Board, other labour relations boards and courts that the Board may consider when making a decision.

    Board decisions will be consistent with earlier decisions it has made on the same issue with similar fact situations. The Board will only deviate from its past decisions in exceptional situations.  

    Decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada are binding on the Board. This means that the Board needs to follow the decisions of the courts when deciding the same issues.

    The Board may also consider, when deciding a case, how other courts and labour boards have decided similar cases. However, decisions of other courts and labour boards are not binding on the Board.

    For more information, you can consult the Decisions page. There, you can also see previous Board decisions and search them by keyword.

    What is the burden of proof?

    The “burden of proof” is the obligation to prove an argument or a fact that is necessary to convince the tribunal of a case.

    Normally, the party that filed the complaint or application has the burden of proof and is expected to provide evidence and arguments that satisfy this burden, while the responding party is only required to respond to what the complainant or applicant has provided.

    In some applications and complaints, the burden of proof is on the respondent, and not the applicant or complainant. This is the case in some reprisal complaints where an employee alleges that an employer took retaliatory action against them for exercising their legal rights. For more information on what this means in a specific case, please see the pages on Canada Labour Code Part II Reprisal Complaints and Canada Labour Code Part III Reprisal Complaints

    You can also consult the Hearing Process page under “How does a hearing proceed?” 

    Are hearings open to the public? 

    Yes, unless there is a compelling reason for the hearing not to be open to the public. Parties, witnesses, and the Board itself are subject to public review. Such oversight and transparency are essential to the functioning of our justice system.

    For more information, you can refer to the Board’s Policy on Openness and Privacy or consult the Hearing Process page.

    Is interpretation provided at Board hearings?

    A party can request interpretation services for pre-hearing procedures, including the case management conference, or for the hearing itself. The Board provides this service free of charge. The interpretation service can be provided in many different languages, not just French and English. The parties must advise the Board in advance if they need this service. 

    What if I need accommodation for a disability?

    Please see our page on Accessibility and Disability Accommodations for more information. Also, please advise the Industrial Relations Officer assigned to your file, as requests for accommodation must be presented to the Board as soon as possible in order for it to take the appropriate action.

    Are Board proceedings recorded? If not, can I record one?

    The Board does not record hearings or prepare transcripts of its hearings. Participants are not permitted to create an audio or video recording of any part of the hearing, at any time, whether the hearing is held by videoconference or in person.

    In exceptional circumstances, recordings of a hearing will be permitted upon written request to the Board.

    For more information, please see our Hearing Process page.

    Access to Board decisions

    How can I get a copy of a Board decision?

    The Board shares its collection of past decisions as a resource for the labour community and the public. 

    You can consult the Decisions page for more information and start your search by entering keywords. 

    Can the Board let me know when a decision is released?

    You can subscribe to receive an email notification when decisions are released. On a regular basis, you will receive an email containing a list of decisions with links to access them. To subscribe to this service, please follow this link.

    The Board’s decision on a particular case

    How long will it take the Board to decide my application, appeal, or complaint?

    The length of time that it takes the Board to issue a decision can vary from several weeks to several months or more, depending on the urgency and complexity of the case.

    You can consult the Board’s performance statistics for more information on the average time it takes the Board to issue a decision after a complaint or an application is filed.

    What can I expect from the Board if I succeed?

    The Board does not seek to punish unions, employees, or employers but instead aims to resolve issues and uphold the provisions of the Canada Labour Code, the Status of the Artist Act and the Wage Earner Protection Program Act.

    What the Board can order depends on the type of complaint, application, or appeal that it is hearing. The Board has a variety of powers to make orders and to put the parties back in the position they would have been in had the conflict not occurred and to compensate for any loss. 

    For more information, please visit the page concerning the relevant type of complaint, application or appeal and look under “What can the Board order?”.

    You can also follow the “Where do I Start?” link, which will take you to the information for the relevant type of complaint, application or appeal.

    What if a party does not comply with the Board’s decision?

    Failure to comply with the Canada Labour Code and with the Board’s orders can result in significant fines and penalties.

    If the order deals with a labour relations matter, a party can ask the Board to file the order with the Federal Court or the superior court of a province. For other types of orders under the Canada Labour Code, a party may file the order directly with the Federal Court.

    For more information, please consult the After the Hearing page under “What if the other party is not respecting the Board’s decision?”.

    What can I do if I do not agree with a decision of the Board?

    If you do not agree with a Board decision, you have two options: 

    1. You can file an application for reconsideration with the Board; or
    2. You can file an application for judicial review with the Federal Court of Appeal.

    There is a strict time limit of 30 calendar days to file your application. 

    Only a party to a decision can file an application for reconsideration or an application for judicial review. Intervenors do not count as a party for this purpose.

    For more information on one or both of these processes, please visit the pages Application for Reconsideration and Application for Judicial Review.

    Contact information

    I am a journalist. How can I get information from the Board?

    You may contact the Board using its online inquiry form. A representative of the Board will contact you. 

    How can I contact the Board?

    For information on how to contact the Board, please see the Contact Us page.