What the Act says

The Act respecting labour standards contains provisions on prohibited practices that protect the majority of Québec workers, whether they are full or part time.

No employer or employer's agent may impose a sanction upon an employee in the following circumstances: 

  • The employee has exercised one of his rights, for example making a claim for wages; joining a voluntary retirement savings plane set up by the employer;
  • The employee has exercised a right under of section 335 of the Elections Act of Québec;
  • The employee has been working for at least 3 months for the same employer and was absent from work because of illness or as the result of a crime committed against him;
  • The employee provided the Commission with information regarding the application of labour standards or gave evidence in proceedings related to the application of labour standards;
  • The employee's salary has been garnisheed, for example, by the Ministère du Revenu because the employee duly failed to pay his income taxes;
  • The employee is a debtor of support and part of his salary has been withheld for the payment of such support;
  • Even though the employee took reasonable steps to assume his familial obligations, he had to refuse work beyond his regular hours because his presence was required to fulfill obligations relating to:
  • the care, health or education of the employee's child or the child of the employee's spouse;
  • the health of his spouse, father, mother, brother, sister or one of his grandparents
  • The employee disclosed a wrongdoing in relation to a government contract being awarded, obtained or performed, or he cooperated in an audit or investigation related to such wrongdoing within the meaning of the Anti-corruption Act;
  • The employee communicated with the inspector general of Ville de Montréal or cooperated in an inspection conducted by the inspector general;
  • The employee disclosed a wrongdoing committed in a public body or cooperated in an audit or investigation related to such a wrongdoing within the meaning of the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies.

No employer or employer's agent may impose a sanction against an employee because she is pregnant. In such circumstances, none of the following measures may be imposed against the employee:

  • dismissal
  • suspension
  • transfer
  • discriminatory measures or reprisals.

No employer may impose any of the following measures against an employee who has reached the age of retirement or has accumulated the number or years of service required to retire:

  • dismissal
  • suspension
  • forced retirement
  • discriminatory measures or reprisals.

Lastly, no employer may impose a sanction upon an employee: 

  • to evade application of the Act, with which the Commission must ensure compliance;
  • because an inquiry is being conducted by the Commission in one of the employer's establishments.

Any employee may file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail if the employee believes that he or she has been the victim of a prohibited  practice. If an employee files a complaint, the employee must prove that the sanction was imposed shortly after the event. The Act stipulates a presumption in the employee's favour in that respect.

Time period

An employee who is the victim of a prohibited practice has 45 days from the imposing of the sanction to file a complaint with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail.

For an employee who is forced to retire or who has a sanction imposed on him because he refuses to retire, the time period is 90 days.

Exceptions

The following employees are not entitled to the stipulated recourse when forced to retire:

  • an employee who works exclusively as a fireman and performs no other duties
  • an employee who is a member of the Sûreté du Québec.

A few definitions

Suspension

Temporary interruption of an employee’s work for a specified period, without severing his contract of employment. The employee may be deprived of his wages during this period. This generally involves a disciplinary sanction.

Transfer

Change in the conditions of employment. This may include reassignment to another workstation or another location, a significant reduction in the number of working hours, a reduction in wages, a substantial change of duties, a reduction in the level of responsibilities, etc.

Discriminatory measure

A measure, the effect of which is to distinguish an individual or a group of individuals from others. The measure is applied to the detriment of the individuals who are victims of the measure in such a way as to be detrimental to the employees in question.

Reprisal

Any vengeance measure taken against an employee following the exercise of one of his rights under the Act or for any other situation stipulated in section 122.

Exercise of a right

It is enough for the employee to show that he wishes to avail himself of an advantage stipulated in the Act in good faith and in apparent compliance with the law. In the case of an absence for sickness or accident, the employee must have been working for the same enterprise for at least 3 months and not have been absent for more than 26 weeks over a 12-month period.

Concomitance

Simultaneity relationship between two facts, two phenomena.

Presumption

Reasoning found in a law which constitutes a waiver of the need to submit evidence or which makes it possible to conclude, if the opposite is not proven, that the law was violated.

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