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Employment relationship

State-specific laws

What state-specific laws govern the employment relationship?

Quebec’s major employment-related statute is the Act Respecting Labour Standards. Other important statutes affecting employers include:

  • the Quebec Civil Code;
  • the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms;
  • the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety;
  • the Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases;
  • the Labour Code;
  • the Charter of French Language;
  • the Act Respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector;
  • the Code of Civil Procedure;
  • the Pay Equity Act;
  • the Regulation Respecting Eligible Training Expenditures;
  • the Regulation Respecting the Determination of Total Payroll;
  • the National Holiday Act;
  • the Public Service Act;
  • the Act Respecting Manpower Vocational Training and Qualification;
  • the Act Respecting Hours and Days of Admission to Commercial Establishments; and
  • the Act Respecting the Process of Negotiation of the Collective Agreement in the Public and Parapublic Sectors.

A number of other laws affect public sector and broader public sector employers in Quebec.

For federally regulated employers, the main statute is the Canada Labour Code, although other federal legislation also governs the workplace (eg, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act).

Who do these cover, including categories of workers?

In general, the above laws cover employees; however, because the laws governing employment relationships are public welfare laws, the courts have held that the term ‘employee’ must be broadly and liberally interpreted. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, the definition of an ‘employee’ can include:

  • persons whom the employer treats as independent contractors;
  • consultants;
  • interns;
  • employees of affiliated employers; and
  • employees of temporary help agencies.

Health and safety laws have been interpreted to include self-employed individuals and independent contractors in the definition of a ‘worker’.

Misclassification

Are there state-specific rules regarding employee/contractor misclassification?

Yes. Further, the rules or approach can differ between a variety of agencies (eg, tax and health and safety), depending on the object or purpose of the specific legislation.

Contracts

Must an employment contract be in writing?

No. However, all employees have a contract which, in many cases, is:

  • partially oral;
  • partially written (eg, the offer letter and holiday policy); and
  • partially implied by law (eg, the employee’s duty of loyalty and the employer’s duty to provide reasonable notice of termination, except where there is just cause).

Are any terms implied into employment contracts?

Yes. The major implied terms are:

  • the employee’s duty of loyalty; and
  • the employer’s obligation to provide reasonable notice of termination, except where there is just cause.

Are mandatory arbitration agreements enforceable?

Yes. However, arbitration agreements may not be able to exclude the jurisdiction of statutory agencies, such as the Human Rights Commission.

How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?

If a material change is made to an existing employment agreement without the employee’s consent, the employee can quit and may be able to sue for constructive dismissal or claim damages for breach of contract. Agreed changes should be supported by an exchange of consideration. Changes can be made unilaterally if notice under the contract or reasonable notice is provided.

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