Canada: Violence Dans Le Lieu De Travail En Vertu Du Droit Fédéral : L'obligation De L'employeur De Nommer Une Personne Compétente Pour Faire Enquête

Le 30 novembre 2015, la Cour d'appel fédérale a rendu un arrêt important concernant le devoir des employeurs sous règlementation fédérale de nommer une « personne compétente » pour faire enquête lorsqu'une plainte pour violence dans le lieu de travail est déposée en vertu de la Partie XX du Règlement canadien sur la santé et la sécurité au travail (le « Règlement » ).

Faits

Dans cette affaire, un inspecteur de volailles à l'Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments (l'« Employeur » ) a soumis une plainte écrite aléguant l'existence de favoritisme, de traitement injuste, d'humiliation et de traitement irrespectueux en milieu de travail, sans que cette plainte ne fasse expressément référence à de la « violence dans le lieu de travail » ou qu'elle ne soit identifiée ainsi en vertu du Règlement.

En réponse à cette plainte, l'Employeur a nommé l'un de ses directeurs afin que celui-ci entreprenne un processus d'« établissement des faits » afin de vérifier les préoccupations soulevées par le plaignant. La conclusion de ce processus exploratoire fut la suivante : advenant même que les allégations soient véridiques, celles-ci ne constituaient pas du harcèlement et, par conséquent, ne requièrent pas qu'une enquête plus poussée soit entreprise.

Après avoir reçu une directive en vertu du Code canadien du travail de la part d'un agent de santé et de sécurité au travail lui reprochant d'avoir manqué à son obligation de nommer une « personne compétente » tel que requis par le Règlement, l'Employeur a choisi d'en appeler de cette directive devant un agent d'appels. Ce dernier a accueilli l'appel et annulé la directive au motif que l'Employeur n'avait pas été mis au fait de l'allégation de violence dans le lieu de travail et qu'il était impossible que le législateur ait eu l'intention d'exiger qu'un enquêteur soit nommé pour toute plainte qualifiée de « violence dans le lieu de travail » par un plaignant, et ce, sans égard aux faits allégés.

Jugement

La question portée devant la Cour d'appel fédérale (la « Cour » ) était la suivante : l'agent d'appels a-t-il commis une erreur en déterminant qu'un employeur a le droit d'effectuer une pré-évaluation d'une plainte de violence dans le lieu de travail avant de nommer une « personne compétente » pour faire enquête sur l'affaire? La Cour s'est dite d'accord avec le raisonnement du juge de première instance et a statué que l'agent d'appels a commis une erreur en déterminant que l'Employeur n'était pas au courant de l'allégation de violence dans le lieu de travail et qu'il n'avait donc pas l'obligation de nommer une « personne compétente » pour faire enquête. La Cour a notamment expliqué que la nomination d'une personne compétente, c'est-à-dire une personne impartiale et qui est perçue par les deux parties comme étant ainsi, constitue une mesure de protection importante visant à assurer la réalisation des objectifs du Règlement.

La Cour a statué que la plainte n'était pas clairement vexatoire et frivole en l'espèce, et que ce n'était pas le rôle de l'Employeur de décider, à ce stade préliminaire et sans même avoir rencontré le plaignant, si la conduite particulière alléguée était sérieuse au point de constituer de la violence dans le lieu de travail. La Cour a conclu qu'une telle constatation ne pouvait être effectuée que par une personne compétente, possédant une compréhension étendue des circonstances à la suite d'une enquête complètte effectuée en vertu du Règlement. En conséquence, une personne compétente aurait dû être nommée par l'Employeur pour enquêter sur l'affaire.

Il convient de noter que, dans les circonstances de l'affaire en l 'espèce, il n'était pas contesté que la violence dans le lieu de travail puisse comprendre le harcèlement, et que l'on puisse raisonnablement s'attendre à ce que le harcèlement psychologique puisse causer un dommage ou une maladie dans certaines circonstances.

Impact pour les employeurs

Suite à cet arrêt de la Cour d'appel fédérale, il est désormais clair que, à moins qu'il soit évident et manifeste, à sa face même, que les allégations ne sont pas reliées à de la violence dans le lieu de travail, les employeurs ont l'obligation de nommer une personne compétente pour faire enquête sur une plainte pour violence dans le lieu de travail si l'affaire n'est pas réglée. Ainsi, bien que les employeurs soient en droit d'entreprendre une analyse préliminaire d'une plainte dans le but de résoudre l'affaire de façon informelle avec le plaignant, toute enquête approfondie doit être laissée entre les mains d'une personne compétente sélectionnée par les parties et possédant les connaissances, la formation et l'expérience nécessaires à cet égard.

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