New Member Information · Can my employer do this to me?



Can my employer do this to me?

The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) welcomes its new members whether they be teachers or educational workers and strives to provide them with the information needed to work safely and professionally. We also want to educate our new members as to their rights and responsibilities, both as members of OSSTF/FEESO and as employees.

Founded in 1919, OSSTF/FEESO represents almost 60,000 public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, attendance counsellors and many other educational workers.

The five “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) categories below will provide information about a wide variety of questions that new members often have about being part of a union in general or about OSSTF/FEESO in particular.

If you don’t find what you are looking for in any of the sections below, please fill in and submit the “Send us a message" form on the Contact Us page and someone will get back to you with an answer as quickly as possible.

If you are a new member to OSSTF/FEESO, please read this message from our President (PDF) welcoming you to the Federation.

New Member Information

What do I do if my employer asks me to do something that isn’t covered in the collective agreement?

Generally speaking, collective agreements cover most aspects of working conditions and the employer/employee relationship. However some things may be covered in legislation or regulations or in employer policies rather than the contract and therefore it is never safe to assume that if it isn’t in the contract you don’t have to do it. As such, if your principal/supervisor asks you to do something that is not specifically covered by the collective agreement, and you are unsure of whether it violates the contract provisions or not, do the following:

  • If you have time to do so before you are expected to do the task, contact your branch president or workplace representative to discuss it with them. If he/she is unavailable, contact your bargaining unit office. If indeed, you are being asked to so something that may be a violation of the contract (or board policy or legislation or regulation), the Union will handle the situation.
  • If you do not have time, ask your principal/supervisor for the direction in writing. Then comply with the instructions and contact your branch president, workplace representative or bargaining unit office afterwards to discuss it with them. If indeed, you are being asked to so something that may be a violation of the contract (or board policy or legislation or regulation), the Union will follow the grievance process outlined in the collective agreement in order to resolve the situation.

Who do I contact if I have been called to a meeting with my principal or supervisor and I think I may be in trouble?

In any meeting with the employer or its agents (such as a principal or supervisor) regarding any aspect of your job performance or conduct, you have the legal right to have a union representative attend the meeting with you. If the meeting has already started and you discover that your performance or conduct is being questioned, you have the right to ask that the meeting be postponed until you can arrange for a union rep to attend with you.

Here are some other general Guidelines for Members about what to do about a variety of concerns – for example, professional college complaints, harassment, search and seizure, child abuse, assault and due process tips.

What do I do if I think that I am being asked to work in an unsafe workplace or situation?

Under Section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ontario, you have the right to refuse unsafe, unhealthy work. If you have reason to believe the work is likely to endanger you or someone else, report the problem to a supervisor/principal (Note: department heads are not supervisors) and remain in a safe place. Employees cannot under the law be disciplined for refusing unsafe work under Section 43.

Teachers’ Note: The Education Act requires that you must ensure the safety of students in your care first.

The supervisor will then investigate the report in the presence of employee and the employee's representative (in other wards a Certified Representative, Safety Representative Committee person, or Branch President or workplace representative, etc.). Refer to the Information Bulletin, The Right to Refuse - It's the Law, Use It!, for any additional steps that may be required.

Each workplace has Health & Safety representative(s) on staff with whom you may discuss Health and Safety concerns. If you do not know who they are, contact your local OSSTF/FEESO office to discuss your concern.

The provincial OSSTF/FEESO Health and Safety/Workplace Safety Insurance Act Committee has created a variety of Information Bulletins and other brochures on a wide range of health and safety topics of interest to our members.

Can my employer assign me to committees?

If all of the committee work is taking place within instructional or working hours, then yes, you can be required to work on committees.

If, however, the committee work is scheduled to be done during non-instructional time or outside of work hours or if you are expected to do work on your own time in addition to time schedule within work hours, then such committees should be voluntary.

To be absolutely certain or if you are being told that you must participate on a committee that meets or requires work outside of work hours, contact your branch president, workplace representative or bargaining unit office.

Can my employer make me volunteer for or assign me to extra-curriculars (coaching or acting as a staff advisor for clubs, etc.)?

No, extra-curriculars are exactly that: extra. You are certainly welcome to volunteer to coach or be a staff advisor for clubs, but you cannot be required or assigned to do so.

If you have been told that you must volunteer for extra-curriculars, contact with your branch president, workplace representative or bargaining unit office.

Can I be disciplined for participating in Union activities?

No, employers may only discipline employees for misconduct as it pertains to the workplace and they must do so within limits set by law and legal precedent. Employers must have “just cause” for their disciplinary actions and they cannot discipline you for work you do for/with OSSTF/FEESO or for participating in OSSTF/FEESO activities.