Control or trust: Legal claim to home office?

Digitization and  technological advances are accelerating the flexibility of working conditions leading to a changed understanding of leadership. A key topic of debate is the “home office” which is currently used by approximately 12 per cent of employees in Germany for all or part of their working time. On this topic, the German government is currently considering a bill requiring companies to comply with a worker’s desire to work from home – based on their assessment that 40 per cent of all employees could realistically work from home and that the majority of employees would be interested in doing so.

This would be a complete shift from the current legal position. Under the existing  law in Germany employees have no legal right to carry out their work by “teleworking”. Whether a worker is permitted to work from home or not is in the employer’s sole discretion. At the same time, working from home cannot be imposed on employees without their consent.

The government cites satisfied and thus more productive employees as a positive reason for the proposed change in the law. However, the legitimate interests of the employer must also be taken into account. A legal requirement for home offices will limit the entrepreneurial freedom to organize work in such a way that corporate objectives are most efficiently achieved. Also, there is the possibility of alienation in the team and the loss of control over employees’ work and working time. Furthermore, compliance with occupational safety regulations (occupational safety law, workplace regulations), data protection (BDSG) and IT security preclude allowing an employee simply to work with a laptop at the kitchen table. The Working Hours Act must also be adhered to, in particular the legal obligation to take an eleven-hour rest period after completing the day-to-day work.

It is yet unclear how the federal bill on a “Home Office” entitlement might look. It is planned for autumn and similar to the existing law on part-time working might provide for a claim only under certain conditions. In particular it might exclude a claim for a home office if there are opposing operational reasons, for example, if the home office rule “significantly affects the organization, workflow, or safety in the business or causes disproportionate costs.” Also, an exception for smaller businesses and – one would hope – for certain roles where presence in the office is essential should be included.

Despite all potential exceptions a legal claim to home office is viewed critically by the employers’ associations. They rightly argue that agreements between the  parties to the employment contract or with works councils at company level or by way of collective bargaining agreements might be a better way to deal with the issue as a “one-size-fits-all” solution may not be the best option.

The WHS Response to psychological health and a PCBU’s obligations

Psychosocial hazards and work-related stresses are amongst the most challenging workplace health and safety issues. In recent times, there has been an increased focus by WHS regulators on ‘mentally healthy’ workplaces. Organisations are expected to have appropriate systems in place to eliminate or reduce psychosocial hazards, such as bullying and harassment, to effectively respond to issues and provide safe and healthy workplaces.

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How much time – if any – must employers provide to employees to vote in the upcoming federal election?

In light of the upcoming federal election, which was officially launched today, this is a timely reminder for employers on their statutory obligations to provide employees with time off from work so that employees may exercise their constitutionally-protected right to vote on polling day.[1] Obligations may vary depending on the jurisdiction, as is described in the outline below.

Jurisdiction(s) Time Allotted to Vote Prohibitions Jurisdiction-specific Notes
Canada (federally regulated employers)

Ontario

Alberta

Manitoba

New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Saskatchewan

Northwest Territories

3 consecutive hours Employers may not deduct pay or impose a penalty by reason of his/her absence during this time. Canada: This allowance doesn’t apply “to an employee of a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water who is employed outside his or her polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, if the additional time […] cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service”

New Brunswick: This allowance doesn’t apply to employees “actually engaged in the running of trains and to whom such time cannot be allowed without interfering with the manning of the trains”.

Nova Scotia: This allowance doesn’t apply to “an employee who is engaged in the operation and dispatch of scheduled railway trains, buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft and to whom the three consecutive hours mentioned in subsection (1) cannot be allowed without interfering with the scheduled operation or dispatch of the trains, buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft.”

British Columbia

Quebec

Newfoundland and Labrador

Yukon

4 consecutive hours British Columbia: Employers may not penalize the employee (through dismissal, diminished benefits, etc.) by reason of his/her absence during this time.

Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon: Employers may not deduct pay or impose a penalty by reason of his/her absence during this time.

British Columbia: (1) This is the only jurisdiction which explicitly states that the leave is without pay (rather than prohibiting pay deduction). (2) This allowance doesn’t apply to: “(a) election officials and individuals employed or retained by the chief electoral officer or a district electoral officer to work on general voting day; (b) individuals who, by reason of employment, are in such remote locations that they would be unable to reasonably reach any voting place during voting hours.”

 

Nunavut 2 consecutive hours Employers may not deduct pay or impose a penalty by reason of his/her absence during this time. “A voter who is paid on an hourly, piece-work or other basis and who would normally work during the period of time off work that an employer is required to grant under this section has a right to be paid for that time at the voter’s average rate of pay for equivalent time.”

This allowance “does not apply to any election officer or member of the staff of Elections Nunavut or to any employee who, by reason of employment, is so far away from a polling place that the employee would be unable to reach a polling place during the hours it is open.”

Prince Edward Island Reasonable and sufficient time (and not less than 1 hour) “If the employment of an employee does not permit the use of one hour of his or her own time for voting, the employer shall allow the employee such additional time with pay from the hours of his or her employment as may be necessary to provide the one hour, but the additional times for voting shall be granted to the employee at the time of day that best suits the convenience of the employer.”

This allowance “does not apply to an employee who is engaged in the operation and dispatch of scheduled buses, motor transports, ships and aircraft, and to whom the time mentioned in subsection (1) cannot be allowed without interfering with the scheduled operation or dispatch of buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft.”

 

Employers who do not comply with applicable legislation run the risk of facing punitive measures, ranging from fines to imprisonment. Additionally, some workplaces will have either HR policies or (in unionized workplaces) a collective agreement that provides for an even greater leave entitlement than the minimum stipulated under the Act. If in doubt, check with your HR department.

The author wishes to thank Alexandra Saikaley, articling student in Ottawa, for her contribution to this piece.

[1] Voter eligibility under the Canada Elections Act, is restricted to Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years of age.

Holidays for Term-Time only workers not subject to pro rata reduction

The law on holiday leave and pay in the UK is continually developing. The Court of Appeal has recently ruled on another holiday entitlement case, holding that permanent employees, who work for only part of the year, are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks and that employers cannot pro-rate their holiday entitlement to reflect the number of weeks actually worked.

The case involved a part-time music teacher who was engaged under a permanent zero-hours contract and was entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday. During the term she had no normal working hours but the employer paid her an agreed hourly rate which applied to her hours worked in the previous month.  As the employee worked in a school she was required to take her 5.6 weeks holiday during the school holidays and the employer made three equal payments in respect of the annual leave in April, August and December. The issue that arose was the method of calculating her holiday pay by the employer.

The employer adopted the ACAS guidance for calculating holiday pay for casual workers that the holiday pay should be calculated as 12.07 per cent of her earnings (i.e. to represent the fact that the standard working year is 46.4 weeks). The employee claimed that the amount of the “week’s pay” for holiday pay purposes should follow the calculation set out in section 224 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) for workers without normal working hours, which involves taking the average earnings over the preceding 12 weeks.  This in fact would result in her receiving holiday pay of around 17.5 per cent of her earnings.

An employment tribunal dismissed the employee’s claims. It held that the principle of pro rating should apply. On this basis wording should be read into Regulation 16 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) which included that holiday pay should be capped at 12.07 percent of annualised hours. The EAT however, upheld an appeal by the employee on the basis that there was no reason for the tribunal to depart from the plain statutory language.  The employer then appealed.

The employers principal argument was that it was necessary to pro-rate the employee’s holiday pay entitlement to reflect that fact that she works only part of the year in order to avoid obviously unjust results which cannot have been intended. It also relied on EU cases which held that periods of holiday leave should be calculated by reference to the periods of actual work completed.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the employer’s appeal. The Court accepted that the EU authorities established that the Working Time Directive requires only that workers should accrue entitlement to paid annual leave in proportion to the time that they work.  This accrual approach relates specifically to entitlement to annual leave and has no effect on the assessment of the remuneration to be paid in respect of that entitlement.  It is also not mandatory and so Member States can adopt more favourable arrangements.

With regard to the domestic law, the Court acknowledged that, while it may be surprising that the holiday pay to which part year workers are entitled represents a higher proportion of their annual earnings than in the case of full-year workers, it is not obviously unfair. These workers are on permanent contracts and it was not unreasonable to treat that as a sufficient basis for fixing the amount of holiday entitlement irrespective of the number of hours, days or weeks that the workers might in fact have to perform.  In addition, the Court pointed out that assessing the holiday entitlement could involve difficult factual questions.  How would an employer determine what should count as full-year hours?   It would also be impossible to calculate the worker’s accrued leave entitlement until the end of the year and difficult to calculate the amounts due in lieu of untaken holiday on termination.

The Court accepted that applying the terms of the WTR without a pro rata reduction for part-year workers could produce odd results in extreme cases (for example a cricket coach or exam invigilator only required for a limited number of weeks in the year), but held that general rules sometimes produce such anomalies. In any event it would be unusual for those individuals to be employed on permanent employment contracts. As a result the Court of Appeal agreed with the EAT and held that on any natural construction the WTR make no provision for prorating.  The legislation simply requires that the week’s pay should be identified in accordance with the ERA and that figure should be multiplied by 5.6.   Attempting to build in a pro-rating or accrual system would be a substitution of an entirely different scheme.

It is important to note that this case is concerned only with part year employees who are on permanent contracts. It does not apply to workers who work part time in other ways, for example for only part of the week.  Those employees can easily be given an entitlement to 5.6 weeks, but of course they are actually relieved from working only on those days on which they would otherwise have worked.  In addition their holiday pay can easily be calculated.  It is however likely that other employees, such as casual workers may seek to rely on this claim.  The Court of Appeal did however, emphasise the point that this case was in relation to an employee on a permanent contract.

For those “part-year” workers, employers should be considering their approach if they currently adopt the 12.07 per cent approach. Employees may be able to bring claims in relation to their holiday pay going back for a period of up to two years. It is hoped that the ACAS guidance will be updated to provide clarity.

Launch of the Federal Employment Guide for Employers: September 1 Amendments to Part III of the Canada Labour Code

A suite of changes to Part III of the Canada Labour Code (the Code) are coming into force on September 1, 2019, that will confer new rights to employees. For many federally regulated employers, these amendments, brought under Bills C-86 and C-63, will have a significant impact on their workplaces and businesses.

To assist employers prepare for and navigate these new legislative changes and additions, the employment and labour group at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP has created the “Federal Employment and Labour Guide”. The guide includes information and takeaways for employers on the following:

  • Overtime: Employees now have the right to refuse overtime in certain circumstances. Also, employees may, subject to certain conditions, request to bank overtime and take time off in lieu of overtime.
  • New hours of work and rest: The new provisions in the Code will allow employees to take a 30-minute unpaid break for every five consecutive hours worked. Additionally, employees will be entitled to an eight-hour rest period between shifts, and will benefit from a 96-hour notice of schedule, and 24-hour notice of shift changes. Finally, employees will be entitled to medical and nursing breaks. All these changes are subject to certain exceptions and conditions, which are explained in the Guide.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Employees with six months of continuous service can now request flexible work arrangements, including changes to their work hours, schedule, and location. Employers are not required to grant all requests, but, as detailed in the guide, their reasons for refusing to do so are limited and all requests must be well documented.
  • Vacation: Under the new provisions, employees will now be entitled to greater paid vacation based on their years of continuous service, the specifics of which are also included in the guide.
  • New paid leaves: Employers must be aware that new and amended provisions related to leaves under the Code now include (i) family and violence leave, (ii) personal leave, and (iii) enhanced bereavement leave. A portion of these leaves must be paid for employees with three months of continuous service. In some cases, the employer’s ability to require documentation from employees to justify going on leave is restricted.
  • Unpaid leaves: New unpaid leaves under the Code include leave for court or jury duty, leave for pregnant or nursing women (distinct from maternity and parental leave), traditional Aboriginal practices leave, and medical leave. Again, in many cases, the employer’s ability to ask for documents in support of the leave is strictly regulated under the Code.

Our employment and labour team has also published three legal updates on the changes coming to Part III of the Code, which offer perspective and commentary on the September 1, 2019, amendments. They can be accessed here:

The guide can be accessed electronically, in either official language, by clicking on the following links:

Please note the guide is limited to the most notable legislative amendments that will come into force on September 1, 2019.

Lancement du Guide d’information en matière de droit de l’emploi et du travail fédéral: Modifications à la partie III du Code canadien du travail qui entreront en vigueur le 1er septembre 2019

Une série de nouvelles modifications apportées à la partie III du Code canadien du travail (Code), qui entreront en vigueur le 1er septembre 2019, conféreront de nouveaux droits aux employés. Ces modifications, adoptées en vertu des projets de loi C-86 et C-63, auront des répercussions importantes sur le milieu de travail et l’entreprise de nombreux employeurs régis par les lois fédérales.

Afin d’aider les employeurs à se préparer à ces modifications et ajouts à la loi et à se familiariser avec ceux-ci, le groupe Droit de l’emploi et du travail de Norton Rose Fulbright Canada S.E.N.C.R.L., s.r.l. a conçu le Guide d’information en matière de droit de l’emploi et du travail fédéral (guide), qui contient l’information et les principaux points à retenir suivants pour les employeurs :

  • Heures supplémentaires : Les employés ont maintenant le droit de refuser d’effectuer des heures supplémentaires dans certaines circonstances. Aussi, les employés peuvent, sous réserve de certaines conditions, demander d’accumuler leurs heures supplémentaires et d’obtenir à la place un congé compensatoire.
  • Nouvelles heures de travail et périodes de repos : Les nouvelles dispositions du Code permettront aux employés de prendre une pause non rémunérée de trente minutes après chaque période de cinq heures de travail consécutives. De plus, les employés auront droit à une période de repos de huit heures entre leurs quarts de travail et devront recevoir leur horaire 96 heures à l’avance ainsi qu’un préavis de 24 heures en cas de modification de leur quart de travail. Enfin, les employés auront droit à des pauses pour raisons médicales et pour allaitement. Toutes ces modifications sont assujetties à certaines exceptions et conditions, qui sont présentées dans le guide.
  • Assouplissement des conditions d’emploi : Les employés qui comptent six mois de service ininterrompu pourront maintenant demander un assouplissement de leurs conditions d’emploi, notamment une modification de leurs heures de travail, de leur horaire et de leur lieu de travail. Les employeurs ne sont pas tenus de faire droit à toutes les demandes, mais, comme l’explique le guide, les motifs de refus sont limités et toute demande doit être documentée.
  • Congé annuel : Aux termes des nouvelles dispositions, les employés auront maintenant droit à un congé annuel rémunéré en fonction de leurs années de service ininterrompu qui sera bonifié et dont les détails sont également présentés dans le guide.
  • Nouveaux congés rémunérés : Les employeurs doivent savoir que parmi les nouvelles dispositions et les dispositions modifiées en matière de congés aux termes du Code figurent maintenant : i) un congé pour violence familiale, ii) un congé personnel et iii) un congé de décès bonifié. Une partie de ces congés doit être payée aux employés ayant trois mois de service ininterrompu. Dans certains cas, la capacité de l’employeur de demander des documents justificatifs à l’employé pour justifier ce congé est limitée.
  • Congés non rémunérés : Parmi les nouveaux congés non rémunérés aux termes du Code figurent le congé pour fonction judiciaire, un congé pour les employées enceintes ou allaitant (indépendant du congé de maternité ou parental), un congé pour pratiques autochtones traditionnelles et un congé pour raisons médicales. Ici encore, dans certains cas, la capacité de l’employeur de demander des documents justificatifs est strictement réglementée en vertu du Code.

Notre groupe Droit de l’emploi et du travail a également publié trois actualités juridiques sur les modifications à venir à la partie III du Code dans lesquelles des perspectives et des commentaires sur les modifications qui entreront en vigueur le 1er septembre prochain sont présentés. Vous pouvez les consulter en cliquant sur les liens suivants :

Vous pouvez accéder à la version électronique du guide, en français ou en anglais, en cliquant sur les liens suivants :

Veuillez noter que le guide n’aborde que les principales modifications législatives qui entreront en vigueur le 1er septembre 2019.

The End of Free Movement in the UK?

The UK Government’s announcement, that free movement will end the day after a no deal Brexit on 31 October 2019, has left many wondering how the rights of EU citizens will be impacted in the days that follow.

Whilst some have speculated that it is unlikely that this means anything different than the original ‘no deal’ plan that was published some months ago (under the previous Home Secretary), others, including the Home Office, indicate that there could be immediate practical implications with reference to a ‘new immigration system’ being ‘developed’ and that plans will be revealed in due course.

These announcements have not yet made it clear if we can expect immediate border controls to be in place for EU citizens (who have not already registered for the EU Settlement Scheme) from 1 November. Many consider that there is simply insufficient time and resource to do this.

What we do know, is that there is no change for EU citizens who are already resident in the UK and who have already registered for the EU Settlement Scheme. 

As the Brexit train continues at full speed, employers and businesses, especially those with a high population of EU citizens should be encouraging those who have not already done so, to register under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible and certainly before 31 October to ensure their position is preserved in the wake of so much uncertainty.

 

Are all employees who enter the U.S. on business “Business Visitors”?

It is not uncommon for Canadian employers to send their employees to the U.S. for business reasons. When they do so, employers should be mindful of the difference between business and work travel. Depending on the purpose for travel, an individual may enter the U.S. as a Business Visitor, or they may need to apply for a work authorization.

The following information aims to assist employers whose employees frequently travel to the U.S. for either work or business-related reasons.

What is a Business Visitor?

An individual entering the U.S. may enter as a “B-1” business visitor for “business travel” on behalf of their Canadian business or Canadian employer to 1) attend a business meeting; 2) negotiate the terms of a contract; 3) attend a conference or trade show; 4) participate in short term training; and in some cases, 5) provide after-sales services in connection with a sale of a product. Each of these activities constitutes legitimate reasons for business travel to the U.S.

Based on the foregoing, any other employment-related reason for which an individual has to travel to the U.S. will be deemed as “work” and consequently, the individual will have to apply for work authorization prior to entering the U.S.

Employees trying to enter the US as a business visitors must demonstrate the following :

  1. Their intent is to remain in the U.S. for a specific and limited period of time;
  2. They have a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning, as well as other binding ties which will ensure their return abroad at the end of the visit;
  3. They will engage in permissible business activities in the U.S.;
  4. They have funds to cover the expenses of the trip and their stay in the United States; and
  5. They are otherwise admissible to the United States.

Can a Canadian provide any Services to a U.S. entity as a Business Visitor?

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), if a Canadian business entity has sold a product to an American one, the Canadian entity may send employees to the U.S. to provide “after-sales service” incidental to the sale in question.  After-sales services may include installation, assembly, repair, maintenance, and training.  It is worth noting that the provision of after-sales services must be specifically contemplated in the original sales agreement. If such is the case, the agreement must be produced at a U.S. port of entry.

What is the difference between Business and Work?

As mentioned above, an employee can enter the U.S. as a Business Visitor to engage in a legitimate business activity. On the other hand, an individual who enters the U.S. to provide services to a client or business in the U.S. is considered to be “working” and will require work authorization prior to entering the U.S.

It a common misconception to assume that employees paid by a non-US source can perform services in the U.S. as Business Visitors. In general, any service that is provided to a U.S. entity in the U.S. by a Canadian is considered an activity outside of B-1 business visitor classification and work authorization is required.

If an activity falls within the definition of “Work”, what options are available?

If the purpose for travelling to the U.S. does not fall within the permissible business visitor activities, including the after-sales service category, work authorization is required.  The most common options in this regard are as follows:

  1. TN Status: A Canadian employee may apply for TN Status to work in the U.S. under one of 60 professional occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA.
  2. L-1 (intra-company transfer) Status: A Canadian employee may be transferred (on a part time or full time basis) to a U.S. parent, affiliate, branch or sister company of a Canadian corporate entity if the employee is an executive or manager (L-1A) or has specialized knowledge (L-1B).
  3. Alternatively, for those who do not meet the criteria for TN Status or an L-1, other options may be considered, such as E-1 (Treaty Trader), E-2 (Treaty Investor), H-1B (Specialty Worker), and O-1(Extraordinary Ability).

With this in mind, employers would be wise to ensure that their employees are prepared when crossing the Canada-U.S. border. Indeed, ensuring, for example, that proper supporting documents are obtained, and that one’s intent for travel is clearly to engage in a legitimate business activity, are important considerations when planning to visit Canada’s southern neighbor.

Free Menstrual Products in Federally-regulated Workplaces Proposed

On May 4, 2019, in the Canada Gazette, the Labour Program of the Department of Employment and Social Development (the “Labour Program”) announced a proposal to require all federally regulated employers to provide free menstrual products in the workplace for employees “due to the shame and stigma that often surrounds menstruation.” In addition, the Labour Program is looking to prevent the use of unhealthy alternatives to menstrual products, for example the use of toilet paper, paper towels or the use of expired products. If passed, this measure would apply to private-sector employers in the federal jurisdiction (e.g. banks, railways, airlines, marine ports, telecommunications, broadcasters etc.), Crown Corporations, and the federal public service.

It is noteworthy that the Labour Program has acknowledged that the physical restrictions of some workplaces within the federal jurisdiction, such as trains and aircraft, may require employers to find suitable locations, apart from washrooms, where menstrual products could be made available. Furthermore, the Labour Program has recognized that employers with employees who travel to different locations as part of their work, such as truck drivers, may have a more difficult time providing menstrual products in the workplace, as the workplace is not always in one single location.

Currently, under Part II of the Canada Labour Code, employers are required to provide the basic toiletry necessities such as toilet paper, soap, warm water and a means to dry hands – but not specifically required to provide employees with menstrual products. Interestingly, south of the border in the United States, similar legislation has recently been proposed in the House of Representative, but has yet to undergo the legislative process before, if ever, it becomes law.

Any further legislative action from the Canadian government is not anticipated before the spring of 2020. In the interim, this should provide stakeholders and the public with a further opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations, and address any issues in need of greater study.

The author wishes to thank Amélye Paquette and Emily Deraîche-Grossberg, summer students in Ottawa, for their contribution to this piece.

Les courriels professionnels d’un salarié peuvent-ils servir à diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre de négociations?

Le 4 juillet 2019, la Cour d’appel, dans l’affaire Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du Gouvernement du Québec c. Procureure générale du Québec[1], a confirmé le caractère raisonnable de la décision de la Commission des relations du travail (la CRT), maintenant devenue le Tribunal administratif du travail, et a ainsi reconnu que, dans certains cas, les courriels professionnels d’un salarié peuvent être utilisés afin de diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre de négociations.

Contexte

Dans cette affaire, dans le cadre des négociations de renouvellement de la convention collective, se prévalant de leur droit à la liberté d’expression, plusieurs salariés avaient inclus un message de nature syndicale dans la signature de leurs courriels professionnels, et ce, à la suggestion de l’association les représentant. Or, l’employeur, invoquant notamment son droit de propriété de ses outils informatiques, avait demandé aux salariés de retirer ce message, à défaut de quoi des mesures plus sévères pourraient être imposées.

Dans ce contexte, l’association avait déposé une plainte à la CRT, prétendant que l’interdiction imposée par l’employeur constituait une ingérence dans ses activités syndicales.

Conclusions de la Cour d’appel

La Cour d’appel confirme le caractère raisonnable de la décision de la CRT, laquelle avait notamment ordonné à l’employeur de permettre à ses salariés d’inclure le message syndical visé dans la signature de leurs courriels professionnels.

À ce titre, la CRT avait essentiellement conclu que ce faisant, les salariés n’avaient fait qu’exercer leur droit à la liberté d’expression en matière de relations du travail et que, dans le contexte de l’affaire, l’employeur avait porté atteinte à ce droit garanti par les chartes des droits et libertés sans justifications raisonnables. De fait, la CRT était entre autres d’avis que le message contenait des « informations exactes » et était rédigé « en termes tout à fait corrects »[2]. Le droit à la liberté d’expression avait été exercé « raisonnablement, sans causer de préjudice, et de manière ni offensante ni disgracieuse »[3]. En l’absence de preuve d’un quelconque effet nuisible, le droit de propriété de l’employeur ne pouvait donc justifier, à lui seul, de restreindre l’exercice du droit à la liberté d’expression des salariés.

Toutefois, la Cour d’appel tempère la portée de la décision de la CRT en prenant bien soin de préciser que cette décision n’établit pas un principe voulant qu’en toutes circonstances, les courriels professionnels d’un salarié peuvent être utilisés afin de diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre d’un conflit de travail. Chaque cas demeure plutôt un cas d’espèce.

À retenir

En somme, la décision de la Cour d’appel vient ouvrir la porte à l’utilisation, par les salariés, de leurs courriels professionnels afin de diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre de négociations.

Certes, pour les employeurs québécois, cette décision constitue un premier précédent notable en la matière qu’il importe de considérer. Néanmoins, et comme le précise d’ailleurs la Cour d’appel, chaque cas demeure un cas d’espèce. Les faits propres à chaque situation devront ainsi être rigoureusement analysés afin de déterminer si le droit à la liberté d’expression des salariés peut prévaloir, dans un contexte donné, sur le droit de propriété des biens de l’employeur.

*Les auteurs désirent remercier Cédrick Bérard, stagiaire en droit, pour son aide dans la préparation de ce billet.

***

[1] 2019 QCCA 1171.

[2] Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du gouvernement du Québec et Gouvernement du Québec (Direction des relations professionnelles, Conseil du Trésor), 2015 QCCRT 0460, par. 66.

[3] Id., préc., note 1, par. 17.

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