Your Dispute Resolution Partner

My union isn't helping me - can I sue my employer myself?

Generally, no. When an employee is represented by a union, they cannot bring a court action against their employer. Instead, they must pursue a remedy through the internal grievance and arbitration process, and they require the assistance and approval of the union to do so.

A union is not obligated to bring any particular grievance. If it does bring a grievance, it has exclusive responsibility over the grievance, and its overarching obligation is to the membership as a whole, not to an individual member.

However, a decision not to assist a particular employee or to pursue a particular grievance must not be arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith. Section 12 of the Labour Relations Code sets out the duty of fair representation a union owes to its members. Arbitrary, discriminatory or bad faith decisions amount to breaches of this duty, and in such cases the member would have a right to seek a remedy against their union.

The Labour Relations Board of British Columbia has compiled an excellent guide into the duty of fair representation. The guide also outlines questions and answers to help you determine if your representation rights have been breached.

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