The Quebec Labour Standards Commission has found that simply
acquiring leasehold interests does not necessarily mean the
acquiring company is a successor employer.
In January 2011, Target Canada Co. made its entry into Canada by
acquiring the leasehold interests of 220 Zellers locations, with
approximately 150 leases ultimately being retained across the
country. Following this transaction, Zellers ceased the majority of
its Quebec operations in December 2012. Target opened its first
stores in Quebec in September 2013 after extensive renovations to
the Zellers locations.
A successor employer?
As reported in the media, during the summer of 2013 a number of
former Zellers employees filed unjust dismissal complaints against
Target with the Quebec Labour Standards Commission (Commission)
after receiving letters confirming they had not been hired by
Target during its job fairs.
These claims were based on the premise that Target was a
successor employer: under various legislation regarding employment
and labour standards, the sale, in whole or in part, of a business
from one employer to another does not put an end to the existing
employment relationships. The employees took the position that
Target, having acquired Zellers' leasehold interests, was the
successor employer of Zellers and its decision not to hire them was
tantamount to an unjust dismissal.
Under the Act respecting labour standards, an employee
with over two years of uninterrupted service with the same employer
can file a complaint if he or she believes that he or she has been
not dismissed for just and sufficient cause. If successful before
the Quebec Labour Relations Board (QLRB), the tribunal which
decides if the dismissal was made for just and sufficient cause,
the employee can seek to be reinstated in his or her former
As in all cases, the Commission must first determine whether the
complaint is admissible before referring the matter to the QLRB. In
order to assess the admissibility of the complaints, the Commission
verified whether the complainants:
had worked for the same employer for at least two years;
were employees as defined by the Act respecting labour
worked for an employer falling under provincial
did not have an equivalent recourse under a collective agreement
or other law; and,
filed their complaints in the 45 days following their alleged
Following its analysis of the complaints and file, in the fall
of 2013 the Commission determined the complaints were inadmissible.
Indeed, it concluded there was no evidence that Target continued or
had the intention of continuing Zellers' business. In other
words, there was no indication Target was the successor employer of
The complainants did not request a reconsideration of the
Commission's decision and as such, Target has since received
confirmation that the Commission has closed its file in the matter.
Therefore, the QLRB will not hear this matter.
The Commission's position is in line with a recent decision
rendered by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board, whereby
Target was not deemed a successor employer for labour relations
purposes of a Zellers establishment carrying on a business at the
Brentwood Mall in Burnaby, BC. In light of these outcomes, it would
certainly seem that the simple acquisition of leasehold interests
does not trigger the application of successorship rights.
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