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REJB 2001-23547 - Texte intégral

CITATION: Dubé v. Volcano Technologies Inc.

2001 CanLII 25214 (QC CS)


COUR SUPERIEURE (Chambre civile)

CANADA
PROVINCE DE QUÉBEC
DISTRICT DE MONTREAL
NO : 500-17-007263-992

DATE : 2001-02-22

EN PRÉSENCE DE :

PIERRE J. DALPHOND , J.C.S.

Gilles Dubé
Plaintiff
v.
Volcano Tehcnologies Inc.
Defendant

Dalphond J.C.S.:-

1 After 26 months of service as Production Manager at the St. Hyacinthe plant, the Plaintiff
was terminated by Volcano. He now claims as indemnity an amount equivalent to 9 months of
salary plus car allowance, bonuses and moral damages, the whole totalling $102,490. The
Defendant considers that according to the terms of the employment agreement, Mr. Dubé is
entitled to no more than 2 weeks, which it has paid to him.
The Facts
2 Mr. Dubé previously worked for ACA, where he met Mr. Jean-Yves Côté, who hired him
in 1970. In 1997, Mr. Dubé was unemployed. By then, Mr. Jean-Yves Côté was the General
Manager of the Volcano plant at St-Hyacinthe and in September 1997, he recruited Mr. Dubé
to fill the position of Production Manager at the plant.
3 The employment contract provides for an annual salary of $75,000, plus a car allowance
and the possibility of an annual bonus. It reads as follows:
Monsieur,
Suite aux récentes discussions que vous avez eues avec les représentants de Volcano
Technologies Inc. (ci-après désignée la «Société»), il nous fait plaisir de vous offrir un
emploi au sein de la Société au poste de Directeur de production. À ce titre, vous vous
rapporterez à Jean-Yves Côté, Directeur général de la Société.
Dans le cadre de cet emploi, vous devrez accomplir toutes les tâches, responsabilités et
fonctions inhérentes à votre poste.
Votre salaire annuel sera de soixante-treize mille dollars (73,000.00 $) et vous sera
payable en versements égaux et réguliers à raison de mille quatre cents trois dollars et
quatre-vingt-cinq cents (1403.85 $) par semaine. Vous serez couvert par le régime
d'assurance collectif de la Great West après un (1) mois de service.
Vous aurez droit à un bonus annuel maximum de dix mille dollars (10,000.00 $) gagné
selon des critères à discuter entre vous et Jean-Yves Côté. Vous aurez droit à une
allocation de voiture de huit cent soixante dollars (860.00 $) par mois.
Vous aurez droit à trois (3) semaines de vacances annuelles payées. Ces vacances

2001 CanLII 25214 (QC CS)


pourront être prises aux époques et de la manière convenue entre vous et la Société. De
plus, les vacances dues seront calculées sur la période de référence allant du 1er juillet au
30 juin de chaque année.
Votre emploi débutera le 22 septembre 1997. Il pourra être terminé en tout temps par la
Société, pour cause ou motif sérieux, avec les préavis ou indemnité équivalente prévus
selon la loi sur les normes du travail.
Cette offre d'emploi est conditionnelle à votre acceptation et à votre signature de la
présente lettre et de l'annexe ci-après reproduite. L'ensemble de toutes ces conditions de
travail constituera votre contrat de travail avec la Société.
De plus, cette offre d'emploi n'est valable que pour une durée de cinq (5) jours à
compter de sa réception. À l'expiration de ce délai, l'offre sera nulle et non avenue.
Nous vous souhaitons que ces conditions vous soient acceptables. Sl toutefois des
informations supplémentaires s'avéraient nécessaires, n'hésitez pas à communiquer avec
le soussigné.
Nous profitons de cette occasion pour vous souhaiter la bienvenue au sein de notre
équipe. Nous espérons que votre contribution sera profitable et positive à l'endroit de
nous tous et que cette collaboration mutuelle se traduira par de nombreux succès et de
grandes réussites.
(...)
4 It is not disputed that Mr. Dubé performed his duties properly and to the complete
satisfaction of Volcano. He achieved all the goals previously discussed with Mr. Côté.
5 However, due to the financial situation of the plant, the senior management of Volcano re-
structured the operations of the company and Mr. Dubé along with 10 other employees was
laid off on December 1st, 1999. He was then 53 years old. In the following days, he was paid 2
weeks' salary in lieu of notice, plus 3 weeks of vacation.
6 Despite numerous efforts, Mr. Dubé was unable to find new employment. In July 1999, he
created his own job by becoming a consultant. Since then, he has been working 3 to 4 days a
week on special assignments and seems to do well. No amount is being claimed for the period
beginning in July 1999.
Arguments of the Parties
7 Relying on the dispositions of the Civil Code and recent case law, the Plaintiff considers to
be entitled to an amount equal to 9 months of salary plus car allowance. He also claims $
20,000 in bonus for his 2 years of service ($ 10,000/year).
8 Based on the reference in the employment contract to the Labour Standard Act, the
Defendant argues that the Plaintiff is entitled to no more than one week per year of work. As
for the bonus, it contends that the parties never agreed on how it should be determined and
that the Plaintiff never asked for one while working for Volcano.
Analysis and Decision
9 If there is any doubt regarding the intent of the parties with regard to the indemnity payable
in case of termination, such doubt has to be resolved in favour of the Plaintiff.
10 The evidence shows that the issue of the indemnity payable in case of firing for or without
cause or lay off was not discussed between the parties and that the paragraph including the
reference to the Labour Standard Act was copied by Mr. Côté from a draft prepared in 1993
for floor employees of Mr. Côté's previous employer and not for mid manager such as Mr.
Dubé.
11 In the Court's opinion, the reference to the Labour Standard Act in case of «terminaison
pour cause ou motif sérieux» could be read as applicable only to situation related to Mr.
Dubé's behaviour.
12 Moreover, the argument of the employer amounts to saying that when entering into the

2001 CanLII 25214 (QC CS)


agreement, Mr. Dubé understood that he was renunciating his rights under the Civil Code to
receive more than one week per year of service in case of termination. It is a well-established
principle that a renunciation to a right must be clear and unambiguous. In the Court's opinion,
the mere reference to the Labour Standard Act in the employment contract without further
explanation or detail is not enough to constitute such a renunciation.
13 Therefore, there is no need to decide if the contract was one of adhesion and if the
reference to the Labour Standard Act should be considered abusive (art. 1437 C.C.Q.) in light
of art. 2091 C.C.Q.
14 As a result, the Court must determine the «délai de congé applicable» pursuant to art.
2091 C.C.Q., which in fact is based on the age of the employee, the nature of the employment,
the duration of his employment, the time required to find new employment, ... ( Standard
Broadcasting Co. c. Steward [1994] R.J.Q. 1751 C.A. ).
15 In the circumstances, the Court awards the Plaintiff an indemnity of four months i.e.
eighteen weeks. Since he has already received two weeks, he is entitled to sixteen more weeks
of salary.
16 As for the bonus, no amount is awarded because the entitlement is conditional upon the
parties agreeing on the terms to determine if and when such bonus is payable. That condition
was never fulfilled and it is not up to the Court to draft what the parties never elected or
attempted to do; neither the Plaintiff nor the Defendant approached the other party to discuss
the conditions for a yearly bonus despite the fact that the contract contemplated it. During a
period of employment of over 2 years, Mr. Dubé never requested a bonus or the drafting of
the terms to be applied. As for Mr. Côté, he was too busy with other problems, including the
profitability of the plant, to address the issue.
17 Thus, this is not a case of abuse or bad faith from the employer in which the possibly of
damages could be raised. The conditions had to be agreed upon and they were not even
discussed after Mr. Dubé's hiring because of the poor financial conditions of the company.
Since the entitlement to a bonus was conditional to terms to be agreed upon, the right to a
bonus has not arisen.
18 As for the car allowance ($860/mo), the evidence has shown that it was provided to
compensate for the costs associated with Mr. Dubé having to work in St-Hyacinthe instead of
Montreal or close to his residence in Longueuil. In his testimony, the Plaintiff said that he was
travelling 120 kilometres a day in order to get to and back from the plant and that the
allowance was merely compensating him for the costs associated with the gas, insurance and
depreciation on the car. Since he did not have to show up at the plant for work during the
«délai de congé», the Court does not see why he should be compensated for expenses not
incurred.
19 As for the claim for moral damages, it was not supported by the evidence (in fact the
termination was done in a very proper way, almost friendly). In his arguments, the attorney
for the Plaintiff did not really raise the issue, making it no longer a claim. It is therefore
dismissed.
Wherefore the Court:
CONDEMNS the Defendant to pay to the Plaintiff an amount equivalent to 16 weeks of
salary, totalling $22,461 plus interests and indemnity as of the day of the formal demand,
December 9, 1999.
The whole with costs.
DALPHOND J.C.S.

Me Rhéaume Perreault, for the Plaintiff


Me Mary-Lynn Breton, for the Defendant

2001 CanLII 25214 (QC CS)