Is your club run down? Unstable flooring that you’ve almost (or actually) tripped on in high heels? Is the pole worryingly loose?
There IS something you can do. You can file an occupational health and safety complaint with municipal or provincial authorities – keep reading to find out how.
Municipal bylaw complaints
Did you know there are rules requiring management to post the contact information of municipal authorities?
This is meant to ensure that you know where to call if there is an issue with anything that managers, owners, or other people operating or working at the club are supposed to be providing for you. Violations of municipal adult entertainment bylaws pertaining to safety include (but are not limited to):
- the requirement for security personnel to be present, even on slow shifts;
- occupational health and safety issues including a broken heater in the winter or broken air conditioner in the summer making it too cold or hot to work safely;
- managers or other club workers sexually harassing you (e.g., a manager or DJ who feels dancers up);
- the staff bathroom not being properly cleaned or in a state of good repair (e.g., bathroom door missing);
- the change room or any other part of the club you have to use for work having health risks like mould;
- if there is no hot water; or if the below numbers (or, in a different municipality, their equivalent) are not posted in the dancers’ change room, at the club entrance, or some other visible location.
Here are the numbers to call to make a complaint:
Municipal Licensing and Standards Division, Complaints and Information Line: 416-392-3082 or toll-free 1-877-868-2947
Complaint form (for email): https://www.vaughan.ca/cityhall/departments/bclps/complaints/General%20Documents/complaint%20form.pdf Anonymous complaints are not permitted but the city keeps the information private.
Business Licensing Department phone number: 905-980-6000 ext. 6380 (7:30am to 3am)
You can also file a complaint online at this address, however a name and address are required for the form to be sent: https://www.niagararegion.ca/mailto.aspx?email=licensing&name=Business+Licensing
By-law and Regulatory Services – Enforcement and Inspections has several numbers, including: 311 (24 hours) or 613-580-2400 (local) or 1-866-261-9799 (toll free) or 613-580-2401 (TTY)
You can also file a complaint online at this address, however a name and address are required for the form to be sent: https://so311.serviceottawa.ca/selfserve/?reqId=2000094&lang=en
According to information published by the City of Ottawa, the name of the complainant will be kept confidential unless the matter goes to court – we interpret this as being more likely in a situation like a dispute between neighbours about a parking, fence, or pet related infraction, rather than something related to occupational health and safety at strip clubs.
Hopefully, the more we register complaints with municipal authorities, the more attentive they will be to the things we think are important for our health and safety at work!
Provincial complaint mechanisms
You can also file a health and safety complaint with the province, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The OHSA covers:
- workplace harassment (also see our page about workplace harassment);
- the absence of a policy on workplace harassment;
- situations or sources of danger or hazard to workers, for example that could cause injury or disease (i.e., anything from the list above);
- a situation or source of hazard to your physical health or safety caused by managerial neglect.
Although the government of Ontario suggests that workers speak to their employer first, if you have consulted with colleagues and feel it would be too risky to approach club management, you can file a complaint online or by phone at the Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008 or for TTY, 1-855-653-9260.
When you file a complaint, the Ministry does not disclose your information to the workplace about which you are complaining. However, someone from amongst the workers at that club would have to accompany an inspector sent by the Ministry in response to the complaint. If you are scared of being fired you could consider asking a sympathetic waitress, bartender, bouncer, or DJ to accompany the inspector; or, you could try to get many of your colleagues to participate in the inspection to make it less likely that management would fire all of you (if they’re like that).
Another way to take action following the OHSA is to elect a health and safety representative. You may want to suggest to coworkers that you together elect, or perhaps you may personally want to volunteer as, a health and safety representative. The responsibility of the health and safety representative at a workplace is to keep an eye on health safety issues, including maintenance issues, and can make recommendations to the employer. Then, if the employer does not implement those recommendations, the matter can be taken to a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. This may be a faster way to deal with the matter than filing a complaint that would have to be enforced through an inspector – the threat of reporting it to the Ministry as the health and safety representative may be enough.
An Ontario health and safety inspector may:
- enter any workplace unannounced without a warrant;
- question any person at the workplace;
- examine the employer’s documents and records;
- issue compliance orders if they find management is in violation of the OHSA;
- in the case of a serious violation, issue a stop work order that will be in effect until the hazard is addressed;
- lay charges for lack of compliance by the workplace.
As visible from the inspector’s powers, a provincial complaint can have more serious consequences and may be more appropriate for more severe situations, for example if the club has not improved its occupational health and safety practices after the municipality has become involved.
Have you had any experience with occupational health and safety complaints?
Tell us about your experience talking to bylaw or the province, or some other authority – we will be compiling dancers’ experiences with this in an upcoming blog post.