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(Photo retrieved from Pixabay).

Québec Superior Court upholds tribunal order to reinstate two Lachute municipal employees

The Québec Superior Court has upheld a ruling by the province’s labour relations tribunal requiring the Ville de Lachute and two local inter-municipal agencies to reinstate two employees.  The town and the agencies had asked the court for a stay of the order to reinstate the employees.

In January 2015, the town terminated the employment of then Director-General Pierre Gionet and Secretary-Treasurer Nathalie Piret.  Gionet was also the Secretary-Treasurer of the Régie intermunicipale Argenteuil-Deux Montagnes (RIADM) and the Régie d’assainissement des eaux usées de Chatham/Lachute (RAEUCL), two local intermunicipal agencies that regulate shared services between municipalities.  Piret was also responsible for the finances of the RIADM and RAEUCL.  The dismissals resulted from a relationship between the two administrators that council believed was negatively affecting the functions of the municipality and the two intermunicipal organizations.  Concerns arose over alleged problems with general staff relations, the use of vacation time, and the alleged use of public funds for expenses including vehicle repairs and hotel rooms.

On June 25, 2020, Administrative Judge Anick Chainey of the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT) ruled that there was no sufficient proof of mismanagement or actions that could irreparably harm the credibility of the municipality and the two agencies.  Chainey ordered that both Piret and Gionet be reinstated to their positions with the town of Lachute and the related agencies within eight days.

However, Lachute council decided on July 2, 2020 to challenge the tribunal’s decision in Superior Court.  On December 15, 2020, Judge Stéphane Lacoste ruled against granting a stay of the reinstatement order issued by the TAT.

Lacoste cited several other cases as precedents and stated that the arguments of the plaintiffs (Lachute, RIADM, and RAEUCL) were insufficient and that the TAT`s previous decision was not unreasonable.

The plaintiffs argued that having to reinstate Gionet and Piret would result in the dismissal of employees who were hired to replace them, that there was a lack of trust in them on the part of the municipality, and that reinstating them would negatively affect the function of the municipal civil service.

The Superior Court ruling stated that the TAT and the court disagreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that they were at more of a disadvantage than Gionet and Piret because both individuals had since found other employment.  However, Lacoste noted that both individuals faced a suspension of their economic and social lives due to the legal process they have had to live through.  The ruling also stated that the dismissal of Gionet and Piret undermined their reputations and that “a reinstatement is likely to put a balm on their wounds.”

The Ville de Lachute, RAEUCL, and RIADM have decided to take time to analyze the Superior Court decision and assess the various options available for the case.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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