Duty to accommodate applies when interpreting and applying provisions of Quebec’s injured worker legislation

Supreme court | Labour and Employment Law | Workers’ compensation legislation | Reinstatement

Duty to accommodate. Employee worked at center for persons with intellectual disabilities. In course of his duties, employee suffered elbow injury that was recognized as employment injury under Act. Given his disability, center informed employee that it had no suitable employment for him. Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) concluded that duty to accommodate did not apply to Act. Employee’s appeal was dismissed by Commission des lésions professionnelles (CLP) on basis that statutory benefits in the legislation represent full extent of employer’s duty to accommodate. On judicial review, reviewing judge set aside CLP’s decision and directed that case be reconsidered in accordance with employer’s duty to accommodate under Charter of human rights and freedoms (“Quebec Charter”). Court of Appeal dismissed CSST’s appeal on basis that legislation should be interpreted and applied in accordance with provisions of the Quebec Charter, including employer’s duty to accommodate. CSST appealed before Supreme Court of Canada. Appeal dismissed. Issue was whether CSST and CLP had to take into account employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate injured worker in determining if and how return to work is possible under scheme provided for in Act. Purpose of duty to accommodate imposed is to ensure that persons who are otherwise fit to work are not unfairly excluded where working conditions can be adjusted without undue hardship. Scope of duty to accommodate varies according to characteristics of each enterprise, specific needs of each employee, and specific circumstances in which decision is to be made. Court has already noted that all Quebec law should be interpreted in conformity with Quebec Charter. It follows that duty to accommodate applies when interpreting and applying provisions of Quebec’s injured worker legislation. Therefore, CLP’s decision should be set aside and matter should be remitted to Administrative Labour Tribunal.

Quebec (Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) v. Caron (2018), 2018 CarswellQue 141, 2018 CarswellQue 142, 2018 SCC 3, 2018 CSC 3, McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., Côté J., and Rowe J. (S.C.C.); affirmed (2015), 2015 CarswellQue 5584, 2015 QCCA 1048, Bélanger Membre T.A.Q., Schrager J.C.A., and Hilton J.C.A. (C.A. Que.).

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