Quebec court to decide: Are online workers for foreign companies protected by local labour laws?

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The scope of Quebec’s labour laws for remote workers is under scrutiny after a former employee, dismissed from her job, has been granted permission to appeal a Superior Court decision.

Central to the case is whether a Quebec-based online employee working for a foreign company without any business in Quebec is covered by the Act. The applicant argues that despite the company’s lack of physical presence, it still functions as an “undertaking” within the province, as described in the Act.

The applicant, who was hired by an American company selling business management software in 2014, has been embroiled in legal proceedings since her dismissal in 2019. She operated primarily from her residence in Bromont, Que., occasionally traveling to the United States for work engagements.

Notably, the company has no physical presence in Quebec.

In 2019, after being let go, she filed a wrongful dismissal complaint under Quebec’s Act respecting labour standards. Initially, the Tribunal administratif du travail ruled in her favor, ordering her reinstatement.

However, this decision was later reversed by a different ruling from the same tribunal, asserting that the Act did not apply to her. This reversal was upheld by the Superior Court on July 17, 2023, deeming the decision reasonable.

An appeal on such a judicial review requires explicit permission, typically granted only if the issue at hand holds broader significance, is novel, or presents a legal conundrum with varied interpretations. The applicant argues that her case addresses critical concerns about the Act’s applicability in the burgeoning domain of exclusively online employment.

While not commenting on the potential outcome of the appeal, the presiding official expressed that the applicant met the necessary criteria for an appeal.

The applicant now has until Nov. 3, 2023, to provide her arguments, with the respondent given until Dec. 8, 2023, to offer their counterpoints.

For more information, see Marchetta c. Petros 724 inc., 2023 QCCA 1276 (CanLII). Note: Written from an online automatic translation. Check source document.

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