The jurisdiction of the Commission des relations du travail and the non-renewal of a municipal management employee's contractBy Joanne Côté Lawyer
On May 5, 2014, the Court of Appeal of Québec (2014 QCCA 876) ended a legal battle initiated in 2006 over the non-renewal of a clerk's employment contract with the city of Montréal. The proceedings started when Me Leduc contested the non-renewal of her fixed-term contract before the Commission des relations du travail (CRT). The challenge gave rise to these decisions and rulings:
- On March 17, 2008, the CRT (2008 QCCRT 130) dismissed Me Leduc's complaint on the grounds that a dismissal cannot have occurred without the city having taken any action to divest the employee of her duties with the intention to sanction her. The non-renewal of an employment contract did not constitute such an action.
- On May 7, 2009, the Superior Court (2009 QCCS 1963) granted an application for judicial review and ruled that the non-renewal of a fixed-term contract may constitute a dismissal if the non-renewal is motivated by factors such as disciplinary measure or political interference. Judge Lemelin referred the case back to the CRT for a new hearing.
- On June 15, 2009, (2009 QCCA 1390), the Honourable Justice Yves-Marie Morissette denied leave to appeal the ruling. On December 17, 2009, the Supreme Court also turned down the request (docket 33325).
- On August 15, 2011, the CRT allowed Me Leduc's complaint and ruled that a non-renewal based on grounds of a disciplinary nature constituted a dismissal under the Cities and Towns Act.
- On April 25, 2012, the Superior Court allowed the city of Montréal's application for judicial review (2012 QCCS 1855) and ruled that the non-renewal of a contract did not constitute a veiled dismissal, unless it could be proven that the non-renewal was motivated by the exercise of a public order right or a similar factor. Without such a demonstration, the complaint should have been dismissed.
The Court of Appeal was therefore seized with the Superior Court ruling and eventually dismissed the appeal, considering that the non-renewal of a fixed-term contract only constitutes a dismissal when it is demonstrated that the non-renewal is based on the exercise of a public order right as provided under the Labour Code, the Act respecting labour standards or the Act respecting occupational health and safety, for example.
The non-renewal of an employment contract?even in the case of a non-renewal for disciplinary reasons?therefore cannot be regarded as a dismissal and give rise to a complaint before the CRT. This type of situation only constitutes a dismissal when the non-renewal is motivated by the exercise of a public order right.