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The rights and remedies of the employee at the workplace

Suffering harm at work, whether physical, material or moral, leaves an indelible mark on the victims. Whatever the nature of the damage suffered, when it results from the fault of an employer, there is reason to be compensated for such a lack of diligence. This principle is also recognized by Quebec law and supported by various labor laws, regardless of the environment in which you work.

: Employees are protected by labor laws that govern employer-employee relationships.

These remedies aim to punish negligent employers to deter such conduct as well as to compensate employees who are victims of abuse. This form of justice may well apply to your situation if you have suffered any damage! Find out what a lawyer can do to help you win your case against your employer or to initiate a case with the CNESST!


Rights and obligations in the employer / employee relationship

If there is one thing that almost every citizen of the province has in common, it is getting up every morning to go to work. This is inevitable in our system of millions of employer / employee relationships which the law must regulate. With precedents of abuse from both sides, today’s laws provide for many rights and obligations on both sides of this relationship. Here is what the employer and his employee owe each other.

The employee:

Loyalty: Whether a contract or a non-compete clause has been signed does not matter. The law explicitly provides that an employee has a duty of loyalty to his employer requiring that he conduct himself in such a way as not to undermine the interests of the latter. This obligation exists even before the start of the work. So beware of questionable messages you might be tempted to write on the internet!

Obey instructions: This obligation may seem difficult to believe for some employees but in an employment contract (written or verbal), the employee agrees to perform his tasks under the guidance of his employer. This is what the law calls a relationship of subordination and therefore compels employees to obey orders given to them within the limits of safety, dignity, and legality.

Caution and diligence: Whatever the nature of the work performed, whether it is on a construction site or an accounting office, the service offered by an employee must be carried out with prudence and diligence. This implies taking all the precautions usually taken by reasonable employees placed in a similar situation.

Performing the work: It may seem ridiculous as an obligation but the principle that emerges from this right is the simple fact that the employment contract is one that is personal. The employer hired you personally so you can’t let someone else do the work for you.


The employer:

Safe Work Environment: While the employee must take the necessary precautions to perform his or her job safely, the employer also has an obligation to provide a safe work environment. This dualism in terms of safety at work aims to minimize work accidents.

Pay the agreed salary: The employee must perform his service by taking care to follow the instructions given to him while the employer is under an obligation to pay the agreed sum as salary.

Respect for dignity: This obligation may seem vague in theory, but in practice, work that infringes an employee’s right to dignity is easy to recognize. Therefore, the employer cannot force an employee to perform work deemed degrading because the law provides that everyone has the right to dignity.

Maintaining a healthy environment: The word “healthy” here takes on a very broad definition that encompasses both the psychological and physical aspects of the work environment.


Note that the rights and obligations mentioned above apply regardless of the employee’s status as a student, casual, or part-time worker. The law protects all employees, even if no written employment contract exists. It is enough to prove the employer / employee relationship exists to create these rights!

What are the grounds for unlawful dismissal?

Sometimes, the relationship between an employer and his employee ends in conflict that results in a dismissal. While this is sometimes justified by the misconduct of the employee concerned or the insolvency of the company, unlawful dismissal also occurs at the workplace. The law stipulates that the following situations cannot be valid grounds for dismissal.

The law provides specific grounds for unlawful dismissal at the workplace.

Dismissal without just and sufficient cause: When an employee has given 2 years of continuous service to an employer, he cannot be dismissed without just and sufficient cause. These two criteria are assessed on the basis of each particular circumstance but the violation of this right opens the door to an appeal under the Act respecting labor standards to the CNESST.

Dismissal of a Pregnant Woman: Unless a pregnant woman commits an act so reprehensible as to justify the dismissal of any employee, it is prohibited to dismiss a pregnant woman due to her pregnancy. The employer must find a temporary replacement to make up for the absence of the woman in question during her leave but cannot, under any circumstances, replace her permanently.

Constructive Dismissal: This type of dismissal takes the form of maneuvering around the law to force someone to quit of their own accord after ruining their working conditions or laying off an employee for frivolous reasons. In either case, the Administrative Labor Court knows how to recognize constructive dismissal cases, have no fear!

Dismissal following the exercise of a right: The law puts in place protections to guarantee the well-being of workers in the workplace. It would therefore be illogical for an employer to be able to validly dismiss an employee for having exercised one of his rights.

You need to act quickly! The general time limit provided for by the Act respecting labor standards for initiating a recourse for dismissal without good and sufficient cause is 45 days. However, as some laws governing specific industries refer to other grounds for unlawful dismissal, the applicable time limit may be 30 days. It is, therefore, important to act quickly and to hire a lawyer as quickly as possible!

Start a union accreditation process with a lawyer

If you want to be sure to start a heated debate with an employer, bring up the subject of organizing a union. It is a subject on which opinions have differed for a long time and which can rekindle animosity. Leaving politics aside, unionization is a right that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects under the right of association. The main steps leading to the establishment of a union are as follows:

The right of association. It all starts with this fundamental right. Under no circumstances can an employer prevent a group of employees from forming a union, impeding a union movement, or firing employees who are discussing such a project.

Identifying the collective bargaining unit: The first concrete step is to identify a bargaining unit. This is the group of employees with a job description similar enough to negotiate on their collective behalf. This unit is not the union itself and the employer must accept the definition of this unit.

Filing of the petition for accreditation: The petition is submitted to the administrative labor tribunal. The latter must approve the proposed bargaining unit and must analyze the democratic component of the process, that is to say, verify whether a majority of employees want to unionize.

Negotiation and signing of the agreement: Once accreditation has been granted by the Administrative Labor Court, it will be time for the newly accredited association to negotiate the establishment of a collective agreement with the employers.

The effects of the union. The establishment of a union adds rights to employees in their workplace by obtaining more than what the law automatically provides. However, the “personal” bond that employer and employee had in negotiating working conditions is lost. It is the union speaking on behalf of the group.

Is it possible to get rid of a non-competition clause?

Employers sometimes force their employees to commit to non-compete clauses in highly competitive areas in order to protect the interests of the company. These clauses must be limited in time, type of work, and territory covered. It is intended to prevent the employee from offering his services to another company. However, these three criteria can make it void:

  • Territory prohibited by the clause is too large.
  • Too long and unjustified period of non-competition.
  • Job description too broad for the clause to apply.


It is enough to prove that one of the 3 criteria provided for in the non-competition clause is unfair for it to be declared invalid by a judge.

Protections against psychological harassment in the workplace

One of the provisions of the law is the obligation of employers to provide a work environment that is free from “toxicity” and psychological harassment. This obligation of the employer forces them to take initiatives to prevent such harassment from occurring. The law provides these main criteria to establish a case of psychological harassment.

Employers must make sure that psychological harassment does not occur at their premises.

Once is enough to meet the criteria for psychological harassment if the conduct is serious.
Ignorance of the employer is not an adequate defense; he has no excuse to claim he does not know. The employer must take concrete initiatives to prevent harassment.

An employer who fails to meet this obligation faces significant penalties. Judges are very inclined to deter toxic work environments so do not hesitate to remedy the situation.

Compare Lawyers connects you with the best lawyers in labor law

Whatever your problem is at the workplace, a lawyer working in the field can certainly help you. Whether you are bound by an unfair competition clause, have been the object of psychological harassment, or an illegal dismissal, an expert in labor law can file the necessary action for you!

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