Last month, the Commission des relations du travail (“CRT”) rendered a decision following a finding of unjust dismissal that serves as a good reminder of the scope and types of awards that can be ordered when a complaint is deemed well-founded.
In this case, the facts were simple: the complainant, a pharmacist, was suspended without pay for an indefinite period by his employer a few months after the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec (“OPQ”) initiated an investigation into the plaintiff’s actions. The CRT, in an earlier decision, had concluded that the employer was justified in temporarily suspending the employee considering the investigation, however it was not justified in imposing an administrative suspension without pay for an indefinite term. This type of sanction was deemed to be a constructive dismissal.
In light of its conclusions, the CRT had to determine the appropriate compensation to be awarded to the complainant. The latter was seeking compensation for loss of salary, moral damages and legal fees, but had renounced to his right to reinstatement. When it came to the loss of salary, the CRT reminded the parties of the employee’s obligation to mitigate his damages. The CRT was satisfied that the evidence showed that the employee had made reasonable efforts to mitigate his loss. As such, the employee was entitled to lost wages, with interest. As for moral damages, the CRT reiterated the Quebec Court of Appeal’s conclusion that stress and anxiety are inherent to all dismissals and not, in themselves, a ground to award moral damages. Moreover, the evidence demonstrated that the source of stress was mainly the OPQ’s investigation. Lastly, the complainant could not claim damages for the moral suffering experienced by his immediate family members. The CRT also refused to make award for legal fees: indeed, the trial was expeditious and the employer’s behaviour did not justify such an award. The system, as is, requires that each party be responsible for legal fees, whatever the outcome of the trial. In all cases, the employee had chosen not to benefit from the free legal representation offered by the Labour Standards Commission and as such, the employer could not required to pay the costs of this decision.
This decision is a good illustration of some of the various awards the CRT will consider once it finds that an employee was unjustly dismissed. It also serves as a reminder of how far a request for different damages can (or cannot) go.
In collaboration with Julie Belisle, articling student at Norton Rose Canada LLP