Terminating an employee for expressing his political opinions at
work can be costly for an employer. This is what an employer
learned after being ordered to pay 91 073,46 $ to an employee
following his termination for sharing his political opinions in the
In this decision (2015 QCCRT 0399), the « Commission des
Relations du Travail » (Commission) held
that, not only must the corporation reinstate the plaintiff to his
previous position, but the plaintiff was also entitled to
compensation for loss of salary, moral as well as punitive damages.
As stated in Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and
Freedoms (Charter), an individual has the
right to freely express his opinion, and any unlawful interference
with such freedom entitles the victim to compensation. Although the
Commission, an administrative tribunal, has the authority to order
the payment of both moral and punitive damages under the Act
respecting labour standards, it is relatively uncommon for the
Commission to grant such damages.
In this case, while at work, the plaintiff discussed the
upcoming 2012 election with his co-workers. He stated that the
leader of the "Parti Québécois" (a
separatist political party in Québec), Pauline Marois, would
be elected, that Quebec would become a country and that this
situation would be difficult on Anglophones in Quebec. One of his
English-speaking co-workers was offended by this statement and
accused the plaintiff of wanting to throw him out of his own
The next morning, the employee was called into the Executive
Director's office and saw a termination letter open on the
Director's computer. She then told him that their business did
not need politicians, and consequently terminated his employment
without further details. Additionally, his record of employment
referred to "intimidation" as the reason for his
discharge. Unsurprisingly, the employee was shocked to learn of his
dismissal, and experienced various problems following his
In its ruling, the Commission emphasized its serious disapproval
of the corporation's actions and the corporation's delay in
admitting its fault. The Commission held the corporation's
actions to be a severe violation of the Charter and ordered the
payment of damages.
Given the Commission's authority to grant moral and punitive
damages, employers should be cautious when terminating employees to
ensure that their actions are not considered a violation of the
rights and freedoms protected by the Charter.
Written with the assistance of William Provencher-Campeau,
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Labour and employment law had some interesting developments in 2016. What follows are a few highlights from the last year and an introduction to an issue that may attract significant attention in 2017.
Businesses and employers face exposure to a variety of claims for mismanagement or misuse of personal information by employees. Damages may depend on how sensitive the information is and how it is misused.
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