I was chatting to a new acquaintance recently and we got onto the topic of jobs, past and present. Erin said that she had worked jobs in the retail sector and that led to a sharing of horror stories. Erin, because she has worked in retail for almost 12 years had some interesting tales but one stuck out and it involved a request by her manager to clean up vomit.

This lead to the conversation about what people should know as part of their career from your first job to your eventual career.

Know the labour law (or someone who does)

Not sure about how to response to the request for unpaid overtime? What’s the difference between a demotion or constructive dismissal? Can you ask to be moved from a distracting location if it affects your work? Most of us know to consult a lawyer over the big things like a job loss but what about the little things? If you’re not sure, start by taking a look at the Ministry of Labour site for your province or territory. If that doesn’t answer your question, talk to a Human Resources expert (not the one in your company) or an employment lawyer.

Is your workplace safe?

As mentioned before, Erin was asked to clean up vomit. She said she refused as she wasn’t provided with appropriate material to safely clean. She was able to say no as she received WHMIS training which includes how to deal with hazardous materials more toxic (and disgusting) than vomit.

Every few years, we hear on the news of an employee, usually young, who was killed on the job due to inadequate safety training. They may not have known that their workspace was unsafe and the company did not take the time to train said employee because of a lack of time, funds or they were a summer employee.

No matter your job status, if you’re not sure that your work is safe, find out your province or territory’s WHMIS standards. You can say no to your boss’ request if you feel that your safety is at risk.


If you are being harassed at work, there are laws against it. The Canadian Human Rights Commission’s opening statement is “Employers are required by the Canada Labour Code to develop their own harassment policies.” It goes on to say that harassment, whether it’s “sexual, racial, based on a personal characteristic, or through abuse of authority, is more prevalent in our workplace than many of us would like to think.”

More on Canada’s labour laws.

Some heavy topics and you may never need to use this information but if you do, as they say, knowledge is power.