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WORKPLACE HEALTH, SAFETY AND COMPENSATION - Workers’ compensation - Obligation to re-employ

Thursday, February 01, 2018 @ 4:47 PM  

Appeal from a judgment of the Quebec Court of Appeal affirming a decision allowing an application for judicial review of a decision of the Commission des lésions professionnelles (CLP) and remitting the matter for reconsideration. Caron worked as a special educator at Centre Miriam, a centre for persons with intellectual disabilities, where he suffered a workplace injury in 2004. Centre Miriam ended Caron’s temporary assignment when the process of transferring persons in its care, which Caron helped with, was completed in 2007. It also decided that, given his disability, Caron could not return to his pre-injury position as an educator, and indicated that it had no suitable employment for Caron. The Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) informed Caron that, given the fact that there was no suitable employment with Centre Miriam, it would pursue the rehabilitation process and solutions elsewhere. Caron argued that this decision was premature and that his rehabilitation process with Centre Miriam should continue in order to ensure implementation of the protections against discrimination in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (Quebec Charter), including the employer’s duty to accommodate. The CLP dismissed Caron’s appeal. It concluded that the statutory benefits in the legislation represented the full extent of an employer’s duty to accommodate and that additional accommodation measures could not be imposed on an employer. It also concluded that Caron’s right to return to work had expired. On judicial review, the Quebec Superior Court set aside the CLP decision and directed that the case be reconsidered in accordance with the employer’s duty to accommodate under the Quebec Charter. The Quebec Court of Appeal agreed that the legislation should be interpreted and applied in accordance with the provisions of the Quebec Charter, including the employer’s duty to accommodate.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. In addition to offering remedies for the economic, personal and physical consequences of workplace injuries, Quebec’s injured worker legislation sought to prevent unfair treatment of injured workers based on their disability. The duty to reasonably accommodate disabled employees was a fundamental tenet of Canadian labour law and Quebec labour law. This duty to accommodate required accommodation to the point that an employer was able to demonstrate that it could not have done anything else reasonable or practical to avoid the negative impact on the individual. All Quebec law was to be interpreted in conformity with the Quebec Charter. Since a core principle of the Quebec Charter was the duty to accommodate, it followed that this duty applied when interpreting and applying the provisions of Quebec’s injured worker legislation, which provided an exclusive scheme. There was no reason to deprive someone who became disabled as a result of an injury at work of principles available to all disabled persons, namely, the right to be reasonably accommodated. Implementing this duty in light of the Quebec Charter did not disrupt the carefully calibrated duties and relationships that were set out in the Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases (Act). It merely required a more robust approach to the implementation of the rights of disabled workers by the CSST and CLP and, by necessary implication, the employer. Interpreting and implementing the Act in a given case in accordance with the principle of reasonable accommodation was, in fact, consistent with the scheme’s efforts to enable the worker to return to work. Workers who became able to carry on the employment they held at the time of their injury were entitled to be reinstated in their pre-injury jobs or to be reassigned to “equivalent employment” with the employer. The injured worker scheme set out various types of accommodation, such as reinstatement, equivalent employment or, failing that, the most suitable employment possible. The fact that the scheme set out some type of accommodation did not negate the broader, general accommodation required by the Quebec Charter. Because the CSST and the CLP found that the concept of reasonable accommodation under the Quebec Charter did not apply, neither made any factual findings as to whether Caron was reasonably accommodated. The matter should be remitted to the Administrative Labour Tribunal, the CLP’s institutional successor, so that Caron’s claim could be decided while taking into account the employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate in accordance with the Quebec Charter.

Quebec (Commission des normes, de l'equitie, de la sante et de la securitie du travail) v. Caron, [2018] S.C.J. No. 3, Supreme Court of Canada, B. McLachlin C.J. and R. Abella, A. Karakatsanis, R. Wagner, C. Gascon, S. Côté and Rowe JJ., February 1, 2018. Digest No. TLD-January292018011SCC