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Administrative Law Lawyer » Can an Employee Sue Their Employer in Quebec?

Can an Employee Sue Their Employer in Quebec?

poursuivre son employeur au Québec

In Quebec’s professional landscape, the relationship between employers and employees is governed by a complex set of laws and regulations designed to protect the rights of both parties. However, disputes can arise, and sometimes employees may wonder whether they have the right to take an employer to court.

Whether for wrongful dismissal, discrimination, harassment or other violations of employment rights, workers need to know that there are mechanisms in place to protect their rights.

In this guide, our CNESST lawyers explain what you can do to take legal action against an employer in Quebec.

Quebec labour standards

In Quebec, the legal framework governing labor relations is primarily defined by the Quebec Act respecting Labor Standards. These laws establish the minimum rights and obligations of employers and employees within the province, and cover everything from working hours, vacations and wages, to termination conditions. The act sets out the rules for fair and respectful working conditions for everyone in Quebec.

The Canada Labour Code accomplishes the same thing for federally-regulated companies, including banks, telecommunications companies, airlines and certain other companies that operate across provincial borders.

Depending on how your employer is regulated, the rights and obligations of employees and employers may differ, as do the available options in the event of a dispute. Knowing which jurisdiction governs your operations is therefore a first step for any employee or employer before taking legal or administrative action.

Valid grounds for suing an employer

Under Quebec law, there are several situations in which an employee can sue their employer. These grounds are governed by Quebec’s Act respecting Labour Standards, the Canada Labour Code and other relevant legislation.

Unjust dismissal or dismissal without cause

Employers are bound by certain rules when terminating someone’s employment. A dismissal is considered unfair when it is carried out without just cause, notably in the absence of serious misconduct on the part of the employee, economic necessity or company restructuring. An employee who is dismissed without just and sufficient cause may take legal action to contest their dismissal.

Workplace harassment and discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace, whether based on age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ethnic origin or any other factor, is prohibited by law. Similarly, sexual or psychological harassment, or any form of abusive behavior in the workplace, is a legitimate reason to sue an employer. Situations like these ruin the work environment and violate employees’ fundamental rights.

Failure to meet appropriate working conditions

Employers are obliged to respect the terms of a contract, which include not only the agreed salary, but also working hours, vacations and benefits. If an employer fails to comply with these terms, an employee may take legal action to make them respect the contract or to obtain compensation for damages suffered.

How to sue your employer in Quebec

There are several key steps to follow when suing an employer in Quebec.

Initial stages: internal dialogue or consultation with union representatives (where applicable)

  • Internal dialogue: Before taking any legal action, it is always recommended that you raise the issue directly with your employer or your human resources department. With this approach, it is sometimes possible to resolve the conflict quickly and informally.
  • Consult union representatives: Unionized employees should consult their union representatives, who can offer valuable support and advice, and may even intervene with the employer on your behalf.

Mediation and dealing with CNESST

  • Mediation: Before going to court, one option is to try mediation. CNESST offers mediation services to help resolve disputes between employees and employers.
  • Contacting the CNESST: If the problem cannot be resolved through dialogue or mediation, an employee can file a complaint with the CNESST. They will examine the complaint and conduct an investigation if necessary.

Legal proceedings: how to initiate legal action

  • Consultation with an employment lawyer: Before taking legal action, book a consultation with the right type of lawyer. They can assess your case, inform you of your rights and how likely you are to win, and guide you through the legal process.
  • Initiating legal action: Your lawyer will prepare and file the necessary documents with the appropriate court (Tribunal, Court of Quebec, etc.), depending on the nature of the dispute and the amount of money at stake.
  • Judicial process: Once the complaint has been filed, the judicial process begins. This can involve the exchange of documents between parties, preliminary hearings, and eventually a trial.

Options for legal recourse and compensation

In Quebec, when an employee decides to sue an employer for violating their rights, they could be awarded any number of types of compensation, depending on the nature of the dispute and the harm suffered.

The goal is to repair the harm caused to the employee and to compensate for any loss or damage resulting from the employer’s wrongful act. Here is an overview of the types of compensation available, and examples of settlements:

Types of compensation

  • Lost wages: The employee is compensated for income lost due to unjust dismissal or inappropriate suspension.
  • Moral damages: Cover moral prejudice suffered by the employee, such as stress, anxiety or psychological suffering resulting from harassment or discrimination.
  • Punitive damages: Intended to punish the employer for their reprehensible behavior and to deter similar practices in the future.
  • Legal fees: Reimbursement of costs incurred by the employee for legal proceedings.
  • Reinstatement: In certain cases, the court may order the employee’s reinstatement.

Contact Bégin Avocat to take legal action against your employer.

Navigating the complexities of Quebec employment law can be a daunting challenge, especially when it comes to defending your rights as an employee. Whether you are facing a wrongful dismissal, harassment in the workplace, or any other violation of your rights, help is available.

Bégin Avocat specializes in defending employee rights. We offer professional guidance for anyone seeking to file a complaint against their employer or to obtain fair compensation from the CNESST. Our firm has in-depth knowledge of Quebec labor law and significant experience representing employees in similar cases.

If you find yourself in a situation where your employee rights have been violated, Bégin Avocat is at your service. Contact us today to discuss your case!

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