Canada: La Cour D'appel Renverse Le Courant Majoritaire De La Commission Des Lésions Professionnelles : L'obligation D'accommodement S'applique En Matière De Lésions Professionnelles

Introduction

Dans une décision rendue le 15 juin 20151, la Cour d'appel renverse le courant majoritaire dans les décisions de la Commission des lésions professionnelles (CLP) et conclut que le processus de réadaptation prévu par la Loi sur les accidents du travail et les maladies professionnelles (LATMP) ne soustrait pas l'employeur à l'obligation d'accommodement qui découle de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne (Charte).

Ainsi, bien que la LATMP n'exige nullement que l'employeur envisage la possibilité d'apporter des modifications au poste de travail prélésionnel afin d'accommoder le travailleur ou encore de modifier un poste existant afin de le rendre convenable, il devra désormais analyser ces possibilités et les mettre en oeuvre, à moins qu'elles ne représentent une contrainte excessive.

En effet, la Charte, à titre de loi quasi constitutionnelle, transcende la LATMP et ajoute cette obligation à celles déjà expressément prévues par la LAMTP.

Qui plus est, la Cour a décidé que toute disposition de la LATMP contraire aux dispositions de la Charte était nécessairement invalide ou, sinon, inapplicable. Dans ce contexte, l'employeur ne peut appliquer sans distinction l'article 240 de la LATMP et mettre fin au lien d'emploi à l'expiration d'un délai de deux (2) ans : dans chaque cas, il doit analyser la possibilité de permettre une absence plus longue afin d'accommoder le travailleur victime d'une lésion professionnelle, sous réserve de contrainte excessive.

Faits

Dans cette affaire, l'employeur avait avisé le travailleur, victime de lésion professionnelle, du fait qu'aucun emploi convenable respectant ses limitations fonctionnelles n'était disponible au sein de son entreprise. La Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) de même que la Direction de la révision administrative de la CSST (DRA) avaient conséquemment rendu des décisions confirmant l'absence d'emploi convenable disponible chez l'employeur.

Contestant ces décisions, le travailleur avait prétendu devant la CLP que l'employeur devait modifier l'un des postes qu'il avait lui-même identifié de manière à ce que ce poste respecte ses limitations fonctionnelles. Selon le travailleur, à défaut de modifier le poste afin de le rendre convenable, l'employeur contrevenait à son obligation d'accommodement prévue par la Charte.

Décisions antérieures

Adhérant au courant majoritaire2, la CLP a rejeté la contestation du travailleur au motif que le processus de réadaptation prévu à la LATMP constituait en soi l'accommodement prévu par la Charte. L'employeur n'avait donc pas d'autres obligations que celles prévues par la LATMP.

Considérant que le droit de retour au travail de deux (2) ans prévu à l'article 240 de la LATMP était expiré, la CLP a de plus conclu que l'employeur n'avait plus aucune obligation à l'endroit du travailleur.

Dans une décision datée du 5 juin 2014, la Cour supérieure, siégeant en révision judicaire, infirmait cette décision de la CLP. Selon la Cour, la CLP avait fait erreur en refusant d'évaluer si l'employeur avait agi de manière discriminatoire au sens de la Charte et de déterminer s'il avait fait défaut de respecter son obligation d'accommodement à l'égard du travailleur, notamment en ne modifiant pas le poste identifié par le travailleur.

La décision de la Cour d'appel

Dans une décision unanime, la Cour d'appel confirme la décision de la Cour supérieure et conclut que la CLP doit, dans l'interprétation des dispositions de la LATMP relatives au processus de réadaptation, tenir compte de l'obligation d'accommodement de l'employeur prévue par la Charte.

Ainsi, tout en reconnaissant que la LATMP n'impose nullement à l'employeur l'obligation de modifier les tâches de l'emploi prélésionnel ou de tout autre emploi disponible, la Cour d'appel précise que le caractère quasi constitutionnel/supralégislatif de la Charte doit prévaloir.

Selon la Cour, une conclusion contraire entraîne nécessairement une conséquence illogique : le travailleur victime d'une maladie personnelle se trouverait en quelque sorte mieux protégé que le travailleur victime d'une lésion professionnelle. En effet, dans un tel cas le droit de retour au travail est laissé à la discrétion de l'employeur et est balisé dans le temps.

Ce faisant, la Cour rejette l'argument selon lequel le régime mis en place par la LATMP constituerait l'accommodement prévu en matière de lésion professionnelle sans qu'on puisse y ajouter d'obligations. Selon la Cour, rien n'empêche l'employeur, dans la recherche d'un emploi convenable, de s'acquitter de son obligation d'accommodement, sous réserve de contrainte excessive.

Qui plus est, tenant compte des enseignements de la Cour suprême dans l'affaire McGill3, la Cour d'appel conclut que l'employeur ne peut mettre fin à la relation d'emploi d'un employé victime d'une lésion professionnelle automatiquement après une absence de plus de deux (2) ans, et ce, malgré le fait que l'article 240 de la LATMP prévoit que le droit de retour au travail du travailleur est limité à cette période. En ce sens, chaque cas devant être analysé individuellement, l'employeur doit évaluer la possibilité de permettre une absence plus longue.

Conclusion

D'une logique implacable, la décision de la Cour d'appel ne sera pas sans impact pour les employeurs dont le fardeau de la preuve dans le cadre de litiges concernant l'emploi convenable ou la réintégration dans l'emploi prélésionnel se complexifiera.

En effet, les employeurs devront désormais analyser la question de la disponibilité d'un emploi convenable en tenant compte de l'obligation d'accommodement et faire la preuve, devant la CLP, des démarches ainsi faites ou des motifs justifiant une conclusion selon laquelle l'adaptation du poste constitue une contrainte excessive.

Une question s'impose par ailleurs quant à l'instance la plus à même de se prononcer quant à la présence d'une contrainte excessive. À titre d'exemple, certains pourraient croire que, lorsque la convention collective prévoit certaines mesures d'accommodement applicables aux employés victimes d'une lésion professionnelle, l'arbitre de grief a toute la compétence requise afin de trancher cette question dans le contexte global des relations de travail. À cet égard, il sera pour le moins intéressant de prendre connaissance des jugements qui seront rendus par la Cour d'appel sous peu dans deux (2) dossiers portant exactement sur cette question4.

Notez qu'en date de la parution du présent article, aucune demande pour permission d'appeler devant la Cour suprême n'avait été présentée afin de contester cette décision.

Nous vous tiendrons au courant.

Footnotes

1. Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail c Caron, 2015 QCCA 1048;

2. Daniel Fournier et Arrondissement Rosemont/Petite-Patrie et Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, 2014 QCCLP 244; Serge Lauzon et Provigo Distribution, 2010 QCCLP 4905; Estelle Lizotte et R.S.S.S. MRC Maskinongé et Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, [2003] CLP 463.

3. Centre universitaire de santé McGill (Hôpital général de Montréal) c Syndicat des employés de l'Hôpital général de Montréal, [2007] 1 RCS 161.

4. Syndicat du préhospitalier (FSSS-CSN) c Fortier, 2013 QCCS 2480, JE 2013-1272 (CS); McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) c Bergeron, 2013 QCCS 1175, JE 2013-692 (CS).

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