On September 6, 2012, the Commission des lésions
professionnelles (the CLP) deliberated on the interpretation
of article 316 of An Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and
Occupational Diseases (the Act) which states that the
Commission de la santé et de la sécurité
du travail (the CSST) can require from an employer that
retains the services of a contractor to pay the assessment due by
Fruits & Légumes G Bono Inc. (the Employer), a fruit
and vegetable wholesaler, had no truck drivers on its employment
roster. To transport merchandise, the Employer used various
external trucking companies. Transportation contracts were
negotiated verbally and on a case by case basis depending on the
Employer's needs. In the case at hand, the Employer retained
the services of Transport Georges Léger Inc. (the
Contractor) numerous times in 2007.
The Contractor did not pay its CSST assessment for 2007 due to a
bankruptcy. The CSST then turned to the Employer, demanding that it
pay the $12,746.53 owed by the Employer, a figure based on the
total price of services billed to the Employer for that period
($878,060) and the amount relative to the salaries paid out for
those services ($160,333.53).
The Employer requested that the CLP overturn the CSST's
To support its application, the Employer invoked that the
contract for transportation does not fall under the ambit of
article 316 of the Act because it does not constitute a business or
services contract under the Civil Code of Québec.
The CLP rejected this argument, explaining that past case law
indicates that the word "Contractor" is not explained
solely in the light of business contracts under the Civil Code
of Québec – it must be given a broader
interpretation. According to the CLP, the analysis centered on
whether an Employer that requires the services of a transportation
company is providing work similar to that of a
"Contractor" within the meaning of article 316 of the
Act. In light of the case law, the CLP answered that question in
Moreover, the Employer asserted that it should not be held
responsible for the Contractor's unpaid assessment because
trucking does not fall within the scope of the Employer's
economic activities. The CLP rejected this argument, deeming it
incompatible with the objective of article 316 of the Act, since
the Employer, by requesting the external services, created the
potential risk of an unpaid assessment. The Employer's
business, after all, would not exist without external trucking
companies. The Contractor's services, were therefore
accomplished for the benefit of the Employer.
To prevent claims based on article 316 of the Act, employers
should verify with the CSST that the contractors with which they do
business are registered with the CSST and are in compliance with
their obligation to pay their annual assessment. To that end,
employers can request the following documentation:
Confirmation of the contractor's registration with the CSST
(prior to the employer engaging in a business relationship with the
Compliance confirmation (while the contract is carried out);
Certificate of compliance (once the contract is finished).
Lastly, it is noteworthy that employers that have recourse to
contractors may also be held liable to pay unpaid salaries owed to
contractors' employees in accordance with article 95 of the Act Respecting Labour Standards
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