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Good and sufficient cause, serious reason, serious fault: different words, same idea

Perhaps you have already been in the situation where the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail [“CNESST”] files a complaint for dismissal without a good and sufficient cause1 under s. 124 of the Act respecting labour standards [“L.S.A.”] as well as a civil suit for dismissal without a serious reason, under art. 2014 of the Civil Code of Quebec, or without a serious fault, under s. 82.1 L.S.A.

What happens if the Tribunal administratif du travail2 rules that the employee was dismissed for a good and sufficient cause while a civil suit launched by the employee or the CNESST is still pending?

In a recent decision,3 the Court reiterated a well-known rule under which res judicata applies between both cases, even though the case before the Tribunal administrative du travail raises the criterion of good and sufficient cause while the civil claim is based on a potential serious reason. Since both cases arise from the same termination, and the same facts, the civil suit will be dismissed. The “serious reason” and “good and sufficient cause” are similar criteria. The outcome must therefore be the same: a dismissal for good and sufficient cause is done for a serious reason.

The same finding is generally applicable to the concept of serious fault, in s. 82.1 L.S.A.: good and sufficient cause may include a serious fault. However, in such cases, the CNESST sometimes adopts a more subtle stance by giving a restrictive construction to the notion of serious fault.

1Some statutes and regulations also use the expression “just and sufficient cause”.

2The quasi-judicial tribunal that has jurisdiction over unfair dismissal complaints made by the CNESST under s. 124 L.S.A.

3Faucher c. Dominique Turcotte inc., 2016 QCCQ 46.

Commentary by Jacques Bélanger, from our Labour and Employment Law Group.

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