Administrative decision-maker is bound to follow applicable precedents originating from any court

Labour and Employment Law – Employment Standards Legislation – Administration and enforcement

When appellant bank employer terminated respondent employee’s employment, she signed agreement recording settlement with payment and release. Employee subsequently filed complaint alleging unpaid wages and unjust dismissal under s. 240 of Canada Labour Code (“Code”). Employer objected to jurisdiction adjudicator appointed by Minister of Labour (“Minister”). Adjudicator dismissed employer's objection to her jurisdiction. Adjudicator held that she was bound to follow earlier decision by Federal Court of Appeal (“earlier decision”), which was factually similar and which held that settlement and release agreement was not bar to complaint under s. 240 of Code. Employer brought application for judicial review in Federal Court. Application dismissed. Federal Court held that binding precedent established that employees were not precluded from relief under Code by reason of agreement made with employer regarding termination that included release in favour of employer. Employer appealed. Appeal dismissed. In earlier decision, employer had brought judicial review application, arguing that Minister was without jurisdiction to appoint adjudicator given release. Federal Court dismissed this objection on basis that s. 168(1) of Code prohibits employees from contracting out of their statutory right to bring unjust dismissal complaints. As matter of principle, administrative decision-maker is bound to follow applicable precedents originating from any court, let alone Court of Appeal. Adjudicator made no error in refusing to depart from earlier decision and Federal Court properly dismissed employer's application for judicial review. Since employee filed her complaint, regime was modified to replace adjudicator with Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Bank of Montreal v. Li (2020), 2020 CarswellNat 126, 2020 FCA 22, Johanne Gauthier J.A., Yves de Montigny J.A., and J.B. Laskin J.A. (F.C.A.); affirmed (2018), 2018 CarswellNat 8337, 2018 CarswellNat 8704, 2018 FC 1298, 2018 CF 1298, Simon Fothergill J. (F.C.).

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