Can an employee's insubordination amount to repudiation of
his employment contract, thus providing his employer with just and
sufficient cause to dismiss him? In a judgment rendered on
September 20, 2013, the Québec Court of Appeal answered this
question in the negative.1
The plaintiff, Pilgrim, filed a complaint pursuant to section 124
of the Act Respecting Labour Standards against his former employer
alleging that he had been dismissed without just and sufficient
cause. The employer, Pattison Sign Group ("Pattison"),
was of the opinion that Pilgrim repudiated his employment contract.
More specifically, Pattison took the position that the
plaintiff's behaviour was such that it was left with no choice
but to conclude that the employment contract was terminated.
The Labour Relations Board agreed with Pattison and came to the
conclusion that, where an employee adopts a hostile attitude to the
point of forcing his employer to dismiss him, there is repudiation
of the employment contract.
However, the Québec Court of Appeal concluded that the
theory of contractual repudiation as a result of the actions of one
party cannot be accepted in employment law insofar as the end of
the employment contract would thus be based on the tacit will of
the employee. The application of such a theory would have the
effect of reversing the burden of proof and forcing the employee to
demonstrate that he did not repudiate his contract. The Court also
indicated that the application of the theory of contractual
repudiation to the employment contract would run contrary to
article 2094 of the Civil Code of Québec which requires that
the employer must demonstrate that he dismissed the employee for a
To access the Court of Appeal's decision, click here.
1 Pattison Sign Group v. Pilgrim, 2013 QCCA
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