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Aksich c. Canadian Pacific Railway

2006 QCCA 931

COUR D’APPEL

 

CANADA

PROVINCE DE QUÉBEC

GREFFE DE

 

MONTRÉAL

N° :

500-09-014533-046

(500-17-012330-026)

 

DATE :

25 AOÛT 2006

 

 

CORAM :

LES HONORABLES

LOUISE MAILHOT J.C.A.

JOSEPH R. NUSS J.C.A.

MARIE-FRANCE BICH J.C.A.

 

 

TONY AKSICH

APPELANT / INTIMÉ INCIDENT - Demandeur

c.

 

CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY

INTIMÉE / APPELANTE INCIDENTE - Défenderesse

 

 

ARRÊT RECTIFICATIF

 

 

[1]                Par inadvertance, une erreur d'écriture s'est glissée aux paragraphes [5] et [6] de l'arrêt du 12 juillet 2006, ainsi qu'au paragraphe [165] de l'opinion de la juge Bich : la mention de l'article 1019 C.c.Q. doit être modifiée pour se lire 1619 C.c.Q.;

[2]                En conséquence, la COUR RECTIFIE l'arrêt du 12 juillet 2006 et SUBSTITUE les paragraphes suivants aux paragraphes [5] et [6] :

[5] MODIFIE le jugement de première instance afin d'y remplacer la conclusion figurant au paragraphe 96 par la conclusion suivante :

[96] CONDEMNS Canadian Pacific Railway Company to pay Tony Aksich 214 094,50 $ with interest and the special indemnity provided by article 1619 C.C.Q.

[6]        De son côté, pour d'autres motifs, le juge Nuss aurait accueilli l'appel principal, avec dépens, et aurait modifié le jugement de la Cour supérieure en condamnant l'intimée à payer à l'appelant la somme de 427 677,19 $, avec l'intérêt et l'indemnité additionnelle (art. 1619 C.c.Q.) tel qu'énoncé aux paragraphes [68] et [73] de ces motifs.

[3]                La même correction, est apportée au paragraphe [165] de l'opinion de la juge Bich.

 

 

 

 

LOUISE MAILHOT J.C.A.

 

 

 

 

 

JOSEPH R. NUSS J.C.A.

 

 

 

 

 

MARIE-FRANCE BICH J.C.A.

 

Me Julius H. Grey

Grey Casgrain

Avocat de l'APPELANT / INTIMÉ INCIDENT

 

Me Louise R. Béchamp

Fasken, Martineau, DuMoulin

Avocate de l'INTIMÉE / APPELANTE INCIDENTE

 

Date d’audience :

le 6 mars 2006


Aksich c. Canadian Pacific Railway

2006 QCCA 931

COUR D’APPEL

 

CANADA

PROVINCE DE QUÉBEC

GREFFE DE

 

MONTRÉAL

N° :

500-09-014533-046

(500-17-012330-026)

 

DATE :

12 JUILLET 2006

 

 

CORAM :

LES HONORABLES

LOUISE MAILHOT J.C.A.

JOSEPH R. NUSS J.C.A.

MARIE-FRANCE BICH J.C.A.

 

 

TONY AKSICH

APPELANT / INTIMÉ INCIDENT - Demandeur

c.

 

CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY

INTIMÉE / APPELANTE INCIDENTE - Défenderesse

 

 

ARRÊT

 

 

[1]                LA COUR; -Statuant sur l’appel et sur l’appel incident d’un jugement rendu le 4 mai 2004 par la Cour supérieure, district de Montréal (l’honorable Hélène Langlois), qui a partiellement accueilli l’action de l’appelant (intimé incident) et condamné l’intimée (appelante incidente) à verser à ce dernier, à titre d’indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé, la somme de 102 712,22 $, avec intérêts et l’indemnité additionnelle;

[2]                Après avoir étudié le dossier, entendu les parties et délibéré;

[3]                Sur l’appel principal, pour les motifs ci-joints de la juge Bich auxquels souscrit la juge Mailhot :

[4]                ACCUEILLE l'appel, avec dépens (excluant les frais relatifs aux cahiers d'autorités déposés hors délai);

[5]                MODIFIE le jugement de première instance afin d'y remplacer la conclusion figurant au paragraphe 96 par la conclusions suivante :

[96]      CONDEMNS Canadian Pacific Railway Company to pay Tony Aksich 219 094,50 $ with interest and the special indemnity provided by article 1019 C.C.Q.

[6]                De son côté, pour d’autres motifs, le juge Nuss aurait accueilli l’appel principal, avec dépens, et aurait modifié le jugement de la Cour supérieure en condamnant l’intimée à payer à l'appelant la somme de 427 677,19 $, avec l'intérêt et l’indemnité additionnelle (art. 1019 C.c.Q.) tel qu'énoncé aux paragraphes [68] et [73] de ces motifs;

[7]                Sur l’appel incident, pour les motifs ci-joints du juge Nuss auxquels souscrivent les juges Mailhot et Bich :

[8]                REJETTE l’appel incident, avec dépens.

 

 

 

 

LOUISE MAILHOT J.C.A.

 

 

 

 

 

JOSEPH R. NUSS J.C.A.

 

 

 

 

 

MARIE-FRANCE BICH J.C.A.

 

Me Julius H. Grey

Grey Casgrain

Avocat de l’APPELANT / INTIMÉ INCIDENT

 

Me Louise R. Béchamp

Fasken, Martineau, DuMoulin

Avocate de l’INTIMÉE / APPELANTE INCIDENTE

 

Date d’audience :

le 6 mars 2006


 

 

REASONS OF NUSS J.A.

 

 

[9]                By judgment dated May 4, 2004, the Superior Court, District of Montreal (the Honourable Hélène Langlois) maintained the action of Tony Aksich (appellant) for damages resulting from the termination of his employment by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) (respondent) and condemned the latter to pay him $ 102,712.22 with interest, the additional indemnity and costs.

[10]           Appellant seeks to increase the amount of the condemnation to $ 513,389.62.  Respondent, by incidental appeal, asks that it be reduced to $ 32,222.22.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

[11]           Appellant began his employment with respondent in January 1971 upon graduation with a B.A. in Economics from Concordia University.  He commenced as an analyst with the Financial Department and gradually climbed the levels of management job classification.  In 1976, he received an M.B.A. from McGill University.  He resigned in April 1978 to take employment with Saguenay Shipping.

[12]           In June 1981, at the request of Jacques Côté, an executive of respondent, appellant returned to work for the latter.  On July 12, 2001, at a meeting with Fred Green, respondent's vice-president marketing, appellant was informed that his employment was terminated effective August 31, 2001; and he was handed a letter to that effect.

[13]           When appellant was dismissed, he was classified as an MM-4 employee, which is part of management, immediately below the executive level.  His basic annual salary was $ 123,183.18, and he also received fringe benefits.  In addition, he was paid a bonus if both he and respondent achieved their respective financial targets.  In the 10 years before his employment was terminated, appellant was paid annually an average bonus of approximately $ 12,000.  His last bonus paid in February 2001 (for the year 2000) was $ 25,000.

[14]           Respondent, as of 1995, was undergoing a significant reorganization which involved, inter alia, restructuring its operations, reducing the number of employees and moving its head office from Montreal to Calgary.  The trial judge describes the circumstances under which appellant was recruited to be in the senior management team of six core employee, headed by Jacques Côté, assigned to the task of attempting to make profitable respondent's eastern railway operations.    These operations had been incurring heavy losses for the previous 10 years and were placed in a newly created autonomous subsidiary company called the St - Lawrence and Hudson Railway Company (St‑Lawrence).  The trial judge describes the situation as follows:

(…)

[21] When the re-organization started, Mr. Aksich was working in Montreal as Director of Marketing for the Real Estate Division and would eventually have had to leave for Toronto for an equivalent position.

[22] However, CPR's eastern operations were going through serious financial difficulties.  It decided to create the St‑Lawrence and Hudson Railway Company (St‑Lawrence), as a separate entity to run CPR's eastern operations.

[23] Jacques Côté who had been with CPR for many years and who had rehired Mr. Aksich in 1981 was made President of St‑Lawrence.

[24] In August 1997, he recruited Mr. Aksich to work as Director of Commercial for St‑Lawrence, a lateral move.  Mr. Aksich replaced one of the six members of the senior management team and became one of the Directors of St‑Lawrence.

[25] Mr. Aksich saw the change as a challenge and nice way to finish his career at CPR.

[26] St‑Lawrence became a success story.  It broke even after its first year of operation and turned (a) profit in its second year.  In 2001, St‑Lawrence became part of CPR.

(…)

[15]           The eastern operations were carried out at a loss of $ 65,000,000 annually for a 10 year period prior to 1995 on revenues of $ 700,000,000 annually.  By 2000, because of the spectacular turnaround, profits reached $ 145,000,000.  Jacques Côté described appellant's important contribution, to the success of the endeavour, in these terms:

(…)

A          (…) 2000, the last year of existence of the St. Lawrence and Hudson, the operating income, which is the synonymous for profit, if you want, it's profit before interest and other charges, was one hundred and forty-five million ($145,000,000.).  So compared to a loss of sixty-five million ($65,000,000.), that was a two hundred and ten million dollar ($210,000,000.) turnaround on the seven hundred million dollar ($700,000,000.).

(…)

Q         Now, how would you, as president of the company, evaluate Mr. Akschi's (sic) contribution to this turnaround?

A          Well, in many ways, I guess.  I think the first one I've already covered, was that he had a very important role to playing terms of being our spokesperson between the major commercial organization, and our customers, and our sales people in the field.  Secondly, he played a very important role in setting up the growth sales organization that we promoted, and that, once again, has since, subsequently been integrated into the mainstay of Canadian Pacific Railway.  So there's now a similar growth sales organization there.  So Tony Aksich was the player, the person in my team who managed that.

He also played an important role in setting up what we called our corridor strategy.  We had the marketing corridor strategy for Montreal to Chicago corridor, another one for the Delaware and Hudson corridor.  And once again, that was related to making … ensuring that the people who were doing the actual pricing understood the strategies, and understood the impact of those pricing decisions on the profitability as the St. Lawrence and Hudson.

He also played a very important role on the Delaware and Hudson property per se, because that was … once we had tackled the major problem in Canada, the biggest issue for us was the Delaware and Hudson, was major problem in as much as CP had railway tracks into New York and into Philadelphia and places like that, but had no direct access to customers.  That was the … where Conrail, which was a huge … had taken over all of the bankrupt railways in the northeast ten (10), fifteen (15) years prior, so they controlled all the access to customers.

So we had track, but we didn't have access to customers.  So we had to develop strategies to gain access to customers through setting up distribution centers, through establishing very aggressive marketing strategies with the automobile industry, who don't have to go to the final customer, they go through a distribution center.  So Tony Aksich was in charge of doing all of that.  And, in addition to that, he is obviously one of the members of the team of the St. Lawrence and Hudson, who made all of the key decisions.  So I'd say yes, he contributed positively to our operations.

(…)

(my underlining)

[16]           With respect to the dismissal of appellant on July 12, 2001, the trial judge writes:

(…)

[38] On July 12th, 2001, Mr. Aksich was 52.5 years old, had acquired 20.2 years of pensionable service, a total of 72.7 points and in order to reach bridge to early retirement, in need of little over one year of pensionable service.

[39] As a result, Mr. Aksich's only termination option was the payment of a severance pay.

[40] The letter of termination, therefore in brief, advised Mr. Aksich of the following:

·         He was given 6 weeks notice, effective on August 31st, 2001;

·         He was offered a severance payment, determined on the basis of the standard formula applied by the Human Resources Department, of $ 169,400 gross, equivalent to 18 months notice of termination.  The amount took into consideration the total number of years Mr. Aksich had worked including between 1971 and 1978.[1]  The offer was made in exchange of Mr. Aksich's releasing CPR from all claims and damages arising out of the termination of his employment;

·         Mr. Aksich's life, extended healthcare, dental and optimal life insurance coverages were to remain in force until March 2003, his long term disability coverage would expire on August 31st, 2001;

·         If Mr. Aksich met his performance incentive plan objective for the year 2001, he remained eligible for a pro rata bonus award contingent upon CPR achieving it's operational and financial targets.  However, no bonus was paid for the year 2001.

[41] Mr. Aksich refused such termination arrangement with the exception that he continued to work at CPR until August 31st, 2001.

[42] He was paid his salary and benefits until that date, plus an amount of $ 11,156 to cover vacation entitlement and a severance payment of $ 23,889.20 gross ($ 15,298.81 net).

(…)

[17]           Amongst the options, in addition to a severance package, offered by respondent to a management employee who was at least 50 years old, had 75 points, and whose services were terminated because of restructuring, was a pre‑retirement leave of absence until he or she became eligible for early retirement with a full pension.  This early retirement is available if the employee is at least 55 years old and has accumulated 85 points.

[18]           The pre‑retirement leave of absence provides a bridge from the end of full-time regular employment to the date at which the employee can get an early retirement pension without reduction.

[19]           The points attributed to an employee are calculated by adding to his or her age the years of pensionable service.  In the case of appellant, he was at the relevant time 52.5 years old and had 20.2 years of pensionable service.  Thus at the time of the termination of his employment, he had 72.7 points.

[20]           The pre‑retirement leave of absence is for a maximum of five years which are calculated as years of pensionable service.  The employee is paid a proportion of his or her salary depending on the number of years of leave of absence.  If it is for five years it is 50%.  The employee is free to take employment elsewhere[2] and does not have to account to respondent for his or her earnings.

[21]           Thus an employee, who has 75 points and commences a pre‑retirement leave of absence at the age of 50, will at the expiration of five years accumulate 10 additional points bringing his total to 85 and making him or her eligible at the age of 55 for early retirement with full pension.

[22]           Appellant expected that he would be in the employ of respondent at least until he acquired the 75 points and that, thereafter, he would be on a pre‑retirement leave of absence until his early retirement on full pension.

[23]           After fruitless exchanges between the lawyers of the parties, appellant instituted legal proceedings in which he claimed the amount of $ 574,000 as damages, including damages for not having been given the benefit of a pre‑retirement leave of absence and the payments that would have resulted therefrom. 

[24]           By judgment dated May 4, 2004, his action was maintained for $ 102,712.22.  From this judgment there was both an appeal and an incidental appeal.

THE JUDGMENT OF THE SUPERIOR COURT

[25]           The judge in first instance made the following evaluation of appellant's situation in concluding that he was entitled to the equivalent of a 15‑month notice of termination:

(…)

[53] Mr. Aksich devoted an important part of his working life to CPR.

[54] The quality of the services he rendered and his loyalty to CPR were never questioned.  Mr. Aksich's termination was a result of CPR's downsizing of its work force.

[55] At the time of his termination, Mr. Aksich was 52 years old.  He had worked for CPR 27 years, had reached upper management and earned a substantial basic yearly salary with significant collateral advantages.  He was ranked within the top 200 employees.

[56] Mr. Aksich's status, level of income and age certainly make it difficult for him to find a corporate position corresponding to his experience, talent and income.

[57] He was even advised by a corporate recruiter not to waste time looking for such a corporate position.  Indeed, despite this advise, Mr. Aksich looked for such a position but without success.

[58] Although his professional life had evolved exclusively in transportation, Mr. Aksich had however become knowledgeable with accounting, marketing and sales, real estate and overseas trade.  So he, eventually, decided to run his own business working as a consultant in real estate and transportation.

[59] The court, taking into consideration the circumstances of the present case which may be distinguished from the ones taken into consideration in matters where the high end periods of notice of termination were granted by Québec Courts in recent years, concludes that Mr. Aksich is entitled to a 15 months notice of termination, to be calculated from July 12, 2001.

(…)

[26]           Thus the trial judge concluded that appellant was entitled to damages of $ 159,972.72, the equivalent of 15 months salary, fringe benefits[3] and contributions to the pension plan (hereinafter referred to as salary) less mitigation ($ 57,260.50).  Accordingly, the amount of the condemnation was fixed at $ 102,712.22.  She rejected that part of appellant's claim which sought compensation for not having received the benefit of the pre‑retirement leave of absence and the payments which he would have received pursuant thereto.

[27]           The judgment also dismissed appellant's claim for moral damages.

ANALYSIS

[28]           The grounds of appeal raised by the parties are the following:

A.      With respect to the appeal of appellant:

1)     Did the trial judge err in not awarding damages in compensation for the payments appellant would have received while on a pre‑retirement leave of absence during the bridging period, in addition to damages in compensation for loss of salary until he reached the bridging period?

2)     Subsidiarily, did the trial judge err in not awarding appellant damages:

a)     equivalent to 27 months salary and benefits in lieu of notice; or

b)     alternatively, for at least the amount equivalent to 92 weeks salary which was rightly payable at the time of dismissal under respondent's standard severance policy?

3)     Did the trial judge err in not awarding appellant moral damages?

B.  With respect to the incidental appeal of respondent:

4)     Did the trial judge err in not fixing a higher amount for mitigation of damages?

5)     Did the trial judge err in awarding costs to appellant?

Should appellant have been awarded damages in compensation for the payments he would have received while on a pre‑retirement leave of absence during the bridging period?

[29]           Articles 2091 and 2092 of the Civil Code of Quebec deal with the termination, without cause, of an employment contract with an indeterminate term:

Art. 2091.  Chacune des parties à un contrat à durée indéterminée peut y mettre fin en donnant à l'autre un délai de congé.

Le délai de congé doit être raisonnable et tenir compte, notamment, de la nature de l'emploi, des circonstances particulières dans lesquelles il s'exerce et de la durée de la prestation de travail.

 

Art. 2092.  Le salarié ne peut renoncer au droit qu'il a d'obtenir une indemnité en répartition du préjudice qu'il subit, lorsque le délai de congé est insuffisant ou que la résiliation est faite de manière abusive.

Art. 2091.  Either party to a contract with an indeterminate term may terminate it by giving notice of termination to the other party.

The notice of termination shall be given in reasonable time, taking into account, in particular, the nature of the employment, the special circumstances in which it is carried on and the duration of the period of work.

 

Art. 2092.  The employee may not renounce his right to obtain compensation for any injury he suffers where insufficient notice of termination is given or whether the manner of resiliation is abusive.

[30]           Appellant submits that the equivalent of 15 months salary awarded as damages by the trial judge is not reasonable, and that he was entitled to the equivalent of 27 months.  Respondent accepts the trial judge's conclusion that a proper notice in this case was 15 months.

[31]           For the reasons set out below, under the heading "Subsidiary ground of appeal," I consider the 15‑month notice unreasonable and would have granted appellant the equivalent of 24 months salary.  However, the issue regarding the length of notice is moot, for the purposes of the analysis under this principal ground of appeal, because the benefits of the bridging period and the payments resulting therefrom would have accrued prior to the expiry of the 15 months.  It is rightly recognized by appellant that once payments during the bridging period commence, payments pursuant to the reasonable notice period cease.

[32]           It was agreed by the parties that at the time appellant was dismissed he had accumulated 72.7 points and in this regard the trial judge stated:

(…)

[38] On July 12th, 2001, Mr. Aksich was 52.5 years old, had acquired 20.2 years of pensionable service, a total of 72.7 points and in order to reach bridge to early retirement, in need of little over one year of pensionable service.

(…)

[33]           If appellant had continued to work during a 15‑month notice period he would have acquired the 75 points necessary to benefit from a bridging period and the payments resulting therefrom, before the expiry of the 15 months.[4]

[34]           If appellant had been allowed to work during the notice period he would have acquired a sufficient number of points after 14 months[5] to benefit from the bridging period and the resulting payments.  He would at that time have been put on a pre‑retirement leave of absence for a period of five years and would have been paid $ 61,591.59 annually, being 50% of his basic salary ($ 123,183.18).

[35]           Respondent submits that being granted the benefit of the bridging period is discretionary on the part of respondent.  However, in fact, in all cases where employees were eligible, they were granted the benefit.  The witness Jacques Côté testified that it was "a general practice," "a standard practice" and that he was not aware of any situation where it was refused.  This evidence was uncontradicted.  Not one case was brought forward where it was not offered.  Furthermore, it is one of the options which would have been offered to appellant if, in the eyes of respondent, he had the required 75 points.  The right to the pre‑retirement leave of absence and the resulting payments would have vested in or accrued to appellant during the notice period.

[36]           We must first decide whether, as a matter of law, a dismissed employee, who is not given the opportunity to work for the employer during the reasonable notice period, is entitled to damages, in compensation for all the benefits he would have received or which would have accrued, during that period, in addition to compensation for the salary he would have received.

[37]           An employee who works for the employer, after being given reasonable notice of termination, is entitled to all benefits accruing during this notice period.

[38]           It is my opinion that, likewise, an employee who is dismissed, without being given the opportunity to work during the reasonable notice period, is entitled, as compensatory damages for not having received reasonable notice, to all the benefits that the employee would have received or which would have accrued if he or she had worked for the employer during that period.

[39]           On this issue the trial judge wrote:

(…)

[72] Finally, Mr. Aksich pleads that he would have acquired a right to a bridge to early retirement during the notice of termination period and, therefore, he should be compensated for the resulting economical loss.

[73] With respect, the Court disagrees.

[74] Mr. Aksich did not benefit from acquired rights regarding a right to a bridge to retirement; he could only expect eventually acquiring such a right if all conditions provided by CPR's policy were concurrently satisfied:  to be within 5 years of being eligible to early retirement, be 50 years old and have 75 points.

[75] Once he had been terminated, he could not anymore have the benefit of an employee status and could not continue to acquire rights deriving thereof such as continuing to cumulate pensionable years of service and could not become eligible to any bridge to early retirement.

[40]           With all due deference, this approach is, in my view, erroneous.  Appellant is claiming damages precisely because he was not given reasonable notice during which he would have worked, acquired the necessary points and received benefits.  The damages are to compensate for what he did not receive, but would have received, had he remained an employee during the reasonable notice period.  Just as one cannot refuse the 15 months salary as damages (granted by the trial judge) on the ground that appellant's services had been terminated and he was no longer an employee, so is he entitled to damages in compensation for payments he would have received during the bridging period even though he was no longer an employee.  The only reason he was no longer an employee is that he was not given the reasonable notice to which he was entitled pursuant to art. 2091 C.C.Q.  The damages are precisely to compensate for the loss resulting from the failure by respondent to conform to that legal requirement of the Civil Code.

[41]           The Supreme Court of Canada in the leading case of Wallace v. United Grain Growers Ltd,[6] set out the guiding principles to be applied in evaluating the damages to be granted to an employee who is dismissed without cause in the case of an employment contract with an indefinite term.  It restored the award of the trial court based on a 24‑month notice period.

[42]           The extent of the damages is dealt with by Iacobucci J.  who, writing for the majority, cites the following passage from the Ontario case Re Giroux[7]:

Speaking generally, one should experience no difficulty including in the definition of salary, wages and other remuneration virtually all benefits accruing to employees.  Unless the context requires a restricted meaning, any reward should normally qualify, if not as "salary, wages", at least as "remuneration", whether the reward takes the form of sick pay allowance, bonuses, vacation with pay or pay in lieu of notice.  [Emphasis added.]

(para. 67)

[43]           The determination of the benefits which would vest or accrue during the reasonable notice period, but of which the employee was deprived, is the proper approach to assessing the damages to be awarded.

[44]           The Supreme Court of Canada considered this issue in Vorvis v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.[8]  In that case the employee would not have been eligible for the benefit during what would have been the proper notice period and therefore damages were not granted to him for the benefit he was seeking.  In other words, the right had not vested during the notice period.

[45]           McIntyre J., in the opinion for the majority of the Supreme Court, writes:

The trial judge dealt with a pension claim in these words (…)

(…) Another case cited by counsel for the plaintiff and Gillespie et al v. Bulkley Valley Forest Industries Ltd. (1973), 39 D.L.R. (3d) 586, [1973] 6 W.W.R. 551 (affirmed 50 D.L.R. (3d) 316, [1975] 1 W.W.R. 607).  In that case the right under an agreement would have vested within the period of reasonable notice and the employee was found to be entitled to the benefits of the agreement when his employment had been wrongfully terminated prior to the vesting.  Here, the plaintiff was discharged two years and seven months before the time for vesting, when reasonable notice could not have exceeded one year.  (…)

(…)

(…) [In Gillespie] the employer agreed to repurchase from the employee a company home if the plaintiff occupied it for twelve months prior to giving his notice to repurchase.  The employee was wrongfully dismissed eight months after occupation of the home.  It was held at trial that the employee was entitled to twelve months' notice of termination and, had he been given proper notice, he would have completed twelve months of occupation and become entitled to the benefit under the repurchase agreement.  (…)

(…)

The law has long been settled that in assessing damages for wrongful dismissal the principal consideration is the notice given for the dismissal.  A contract of employment does not in law have an indefinite existence.  It may be terminated by either employer or employee and no wrong in law is done by the termination itself.  An employee who is dismissed is entitled to the notice agreed upon in the employment contract or, where no notice period is specified in the contract, to reasonable notice.  He is entitled in the alternative in the absence of due notice to payment of remuneration for the notice period.  The significance of notice is illustrated by reference to Gillespie (…) where vesting of an interest in the plan would have occurred before expiry of the notice period.  In this case the employee succeeded.  (…)

(pp. 1094-1096)

(my underlining)

[46]           In Durrant v. British Columbia (Hydro and Power Authority),[9] the British Columbia Court of Appeal cited Vorvis and stated:

It is, of course, settled law now that an employee terminated without cause or proper notice is entitled, in addition to compensation for the salary he would have earned during his period of notice, to compensation also for loss of any pension rights which would have accrued during that period.

[47]           In St-Coeur c. Société d'investissement du mouvement acadien Ltée,[10] LaVigne J. of the Court of Queen's Bench of New Brunswick also followed the reasoning in Vorvis as follows:

Toutefois, à mon avis, si M. St-Cœur avait été éligible pour prendre sa retraite pendant sa période de préavis il est évident que dans les circonstances, il l'aurait prise la journée avant que sa mise à pied prenne effet.  À ce moment, en plus de la période de préavis, il aurait aussi eu droit à la somme de 26 675, représentant ses droits acquis tels que promis en juin 1997.

(…)

Cette approche est consistante avec l'approche suivie dans l'arrêt de la Cour suprême du Canada dans Vorvis c. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (…).  Dans cette affaire, le juge de première instance avait conclu que l'appelant avait été renvoyé sans justification et qu'il avait droit à des dommages-intérêts.  Les avocats ont convenu que les dommages-intérêts devraient être fixés en fonction d'une exigence de préavis de 7 mois.

(…)

Il est claire (sic) en lisant l'affaire Vorvis que la conclusion aurait été autre si l'acquisition du droit à la pension s'était concrétisée pendant la période de préavis raisonnable.

(my underlining)

(paras. 87-93)

[48]           In Quebec, we find an application of the principle by Gomery J. in Bernardin v. Alitalia Airlines[11] in these terms:

This standard will apply to all forms of remuneration and benefits which Plaintiff might normally have expected to receive in the twelve month period following his dismissal, and of which he was deprived as a result.  In case of uncertainty as to the precise amount that might have been received for such benefits as bonuses

and travel the amount of the indemnity will have to be estimated, taking into account the value of the benefit in past years.

(pp. 12-13)

[49]           Thus, as a matter of law, an employee whose services are terminated without cause, and whose employment is for an indeterminate term, is entitled to damages in compensation for all the benefits which would have accrued or which would have been vested in him or her during a reasonable notice period during which he or she is not given the opportunity to work.

[50]           It is my view that the pre‑retirement leave of absence and the payments resulting therefrom during the bridging period is one of those benefits.

[51]           The benefit, called the pre‑retirement leave of absence or bridging option, is described by respondent in its letter to Jacques Côté dated May 18, 2001[12] which reads in part:

(…)

OPTION 1

PRE‑RETIREMENT LEAVE OF ABSENCE (BRIDGING)

As you are a member of the Company's Defined Benefit Pension Plan, you are eligible for a special Pre-Retirement Leave of Absence (Bridging) option.

Under this option, your employment will not be terminated and you will instead be placed on a special pre-retirement leave of absence.  You will not be required to perform any active working service for the Company, but will remain an employee of the Company on leave until April 1, 2003, your earliest retirement date without reduction of pension for early retirement under the Rules of the Company's Pension Plan.

If you choose this option, you agree to:

1.      Commence a leave of absence of approximately 20 months on August 1, 2001, after you have taken all your outstanding vacation entitlement.  Your last day at work will be May 31, 2001 (this to be confirmed after verifying your outstanding vacation);

2.      Be bound by the revised terms of employment contained herein for the period of your pre-retirement leave of absence; and

3.      Retire from Company service on April 1, 2003.

If you choose this option, the Company will pay you a weekly bridge salary for the period starting on the commencement of your leave of absence and ending on the date you take early retirement.  The Company also hereby grants you the consent required to take early retirement under the Pension Plan Rules.

In accepting this offer, you acknowledge and agree that you are due no further compensation arising out of the loss of your current position and that you will not take any action to seek any other compensation.

You will be required to continue to make contributions toward your pension, and the period of leave of absence will be considered pensionable service for the purposes of the Company's Pension Plan.  Your bridge salary continues to be subject to the usual deductions at source.  However, you will not be entitled to statutory holidays and annual vacation that would otherwise accrue during your leave of absence.

You will not be entitled to participate in the Performance Incentive Plan (PIP) after you commence your pre‑retirement leave of absence.  However, if you have met your PIP‑related PMP objectives, you will be eligible for a pro‑rated award in respect of the year 2001 and to be paid in 2002, contingent upon the Company achieving its operational and financial targets.

(…)

(emphasis in text and my underlining)

[52]           Appellant would have had the benefit of this bridging option within 15 months of his dismissal and he would, at that time, have had the benefit of the pre‑retirement leave of absence and the accompanying payments.

[53]           It is my opinion that since the trial judge was of the view that 15 months was the proper reasonable notice period and since appellant would have attained the 75 points before the end of that period (at 14 months), she should have assessed damages in compensation for the payments which appellant would have received during the bridging period, in addition to damages in compensation for the salary he would have received during the 14 months prior to the commencement of the bridging.  What is the amount of those damages?

Calculation of damages under the principle ground of appeal.

[54]           The damages are to be assessed separately for each of two consecutive periods.

[55]           The first period is with respect to the damages due in compensation for the loss of salary during the period of 14 months between the dismissal of appellant and the commencement of the pre‑retirement leave of absence or bridging period.  During this period one must take into account the mitigation of the damages stemming from revenue earned from other work.

[56]           The second period covers the five years of the pre‑retirement leave of absence during the bridging period which commences 14 months after the dismissal.  There is no question of the damages being mitigated under this heading because appellant would have been free to work elsewhere, without any decrease in the amount of the payments made by respondent.

The damages for the 14 month notice period prior to the bridging period.

[57]           The trial judge, on the basis of a 15‑month notice period, established the damages at $ 159,972.72[13] and, after subtracting $ 57,260.50 as mitigation, fixed the condemnation at $ 102,712.22.

[58]           Appellant is entitled to damages of $ 149,307.87[14] in compensation for 14 months salary, instead of the 24 months I consider to be the reasonable notice period, because at the expiry of 14 months he would commence receiving payments while on the pre‑retirement leave of absence during the bridging period of five years.

The bonus.

[59]           Appellant submits that he should also have been awarded damages in the amount of $ 25 000 for not having received a bonus.  Although he had met the personal objective goals which he was required to achieve in 2001 to be entitled to a bonus,[15] respondent as a whole had not met its objectives, which was also a condition before bonuses were granted.  Accordingly, there were no bonuses paid for the year 2001 and he would hot have received any bonus even if he had remained an employee.  His claim on this ground for the year 2001 is ill founded.

[60]           However, during a reasonable notice period, appellant would also have worked in 2002 for a period of 8 1/2 months before reaching the bridging period at the expiry of 14 months.  A bonus was paid to employees for the year 2002 and that of appellant would have been $ 14,781.98.[16]  Appellant had always achieved his personal objectives making him eligible for the bonus which he, in fact, received for the 10 previous years.  It is highly probable that he would also have done so in 2002.  Therefore, I would award him damages of $ 10,470.57 for the bonus (pro-rata) he would have received for 2002.

Mitigation of damages.

[61]           The trial judge mitigated the damages by taking four items into account:

1.      The salary paid to appellant for a six week period

      in July and August 2001 -                                               $ 14,488.00

2.      The amount paid to appellant as severance pay -    $ 23,889.00

3.      Earnings from working for his corporation Ragusa

     Canada Inc. (Ragusa) -                                                   $ 16,625.00

 

4.      CPR's contributions to fringe benefits -                        $   2,019.75

      $ 57,260.50

[62]           The first two items are not in dispute.  However, respondent, in its incidental appeal, claims that trial judge erred in her calculation of the earnings of appellant subsequent to his dismissal.  It contends that $ 110,400 which was paid by a client as fees to appellant's corporation Ragusa, with respect to which disbursements were wholly paid by the client, should have been attributed as income to appellant.  Respondent also submits that, contrary to the finding of the trial judge, appellant, prior to the dismissal, did not have any income from work for his corporation.  It argues that she erred in attributing $ 19,000 annual income for 2002 in that regard and subtracting the pro-rata amount from the mitigation.  The analysis of the trial judge with respect to mitigation is expressed in the following terms:

(…)

[81] Finally, in view of the compensatory nature of the notice of termination, an employee who has been terminated has the obligation to mitigate his damages and all income earned by him during the termination notice period must be deducted.

[82] At the same time, Mr. Aksich worked for CPR, he had started his own business working as a consultant in real estate and transportation and earned an additional income of $19,000.

[83] After being terminated, he continued to do so through a private company called Ragusa Canada Inc. (Ragusa).  Mr. Aksich and his wife are the shareholders; he alone generates revenues in the company.

[84] Mr. Aksich earned no other income than the one paid to him by CPR in 2001.

[85] In 2002, Ragusa paid Mr. Aksich a salary of $42,024 and, in 2003, he expected earning a salary of approximately $65,000.

[86] Ragusa has succeeded to secure itself consulting agreements with five clients.

[87] According to Ragusa's annual financial statements, it generated for the years 2002 and 2003, gross revenues in the amount of $94,085 and $113,869.  From this last amount, an amount of $9,000 was left as working capital in the company at the end of the year 2003.

[88] CPR pleads that Mr. Aksich's income for the year 2002 should be increased considering that he runs Ragusa, enjoys total discretion in determining the salary he should be paid and a substantial part of Ragusa's expenses were reimbursed according to the consulting agreements it had entered into with it's clients.

[89] An amount of $42,024 will be considered by the Court as the total income earned by Mr. Aksich in the year 2002.

[90] Indeed, the salary paid to Mr. Aksich in 2002 in proportion to Ragusa's gross income for that year and the amount of $9,000 left in the company as working capital are reasonable; in particular, with respect to one client, same payments received by Ragusa were made as advanced payments and the consulting fees for the year 2002 were not paid in full during that year; the balance was paid only in 2003.

[91] During the period extending from January 1st, 2002 to October 12th, 2002 which falls within the 15 months notice of termination he was entitled to, Mr. Aksich earned $31,667 out of $42,024.  Also, Mr. Aksich already derived income from Ragusa in the amount of $19,000 a year prior to his termination which, for a period of 9 ½ months, is equivalent to an average revenue of $15,042; as a result, an amount of $16,625 only will be considered as mitigated income.

[92] Finally, must also be deducted an amount of $26,147.50 already paid by CPR and which amount includes:

·         A severance pay:  $23,889.00

·         CPR's contribution to fringe benefits ( 13 ½ months) excluding the long term disability premium ($52.50 per month):  $2,019.75.

(…)

(my underlining)

[63]           Appellant, on his part with respect to mitigation, submits that the trial judge erred in deducting as mitigation the amount of $ 2,019.75, described in the judgment as CPR's contribution to fringe benefits.[17]

[64]           Previously in her judgment, when establishing the yearly remuneration of appellant, the trial judge took into account respondent's contribution to fringe benefits:

(…)

[76] Mr. Aksich's remuneration included his basic salary, a bonus if he and CPR succeeded in reaching their financial targets and fringe benefits.

[77] The parties have admitted that for the year ending December 2001, CPR contributed to the employees' Pension Plan at a rate half the employees’ contributions to the Pension Plan Fund.

[78] As a result, Mr. Aksich's total yearly remuneration amounted to $127,978.18, this amount included the following:

·         Basic Salary:                                                                           $123,183.18

·         CPR contribution to fringe benefits:                                        $    2,088.00

·         CPR contributions to Mr. Aksich's pension fund:                   $    2,707.00

(my underlining)

[65]           There is no explanation why the $ 2,019.75 as contribution to fringe benefits is deducted in mitigation at paragraph [92] of the judgement, after $ 2,088 had been granted under the same wording at paragraph [78].

[66]           However, we have not been provided with any details or proof regarding these payments and whether or not they refer to the same fringe benefits.  Appellant did not show the nature of the alleged error.  Respondent submits that, in fact, it had provided the benefits and the deduction made by the trial judge avoids double indemnification.  Appellant has the burden of identifying and demonstrating the error he alleges and he has not succeeded in doing so.

[67]           The trial judge analyzed documents including contracts, financial statements and income tax returns.  She also assessed the testimony of the witnesses.  It has not been shown by either respondent or appellant that she committed any palpable and overriding error with respect to her evaluation of the mitigation.  Thus an intervention by our Court on this issue would not be justified except to adjust, on this principal ground of appeal, the amount of the mitigation so that it is based on 14 months notice rather than 15 months.  This would reduce the amount of the item "earnings from his corporation Ragusa" for 8.5[18] months in 2002 to $ 16,309 and establish the total mitigation at $ 56,705.75.

[68]           On the basis of a 14‑month notice period, the damages are $ 159,778.44 less mitigation in the amount of $ 56,705.75, for a total of $ 103,072.69.  In addition appellant is entitled to interest and the additional indemnity on this amount from the date of service.

Damages in compensation for the payments appellant should have received during the pre‑retirement leave of absence or bridging period.

[69]           Appellant is also entitled to damages equivalent to the amount he would have received during the bridging period of five years commencing on September 12, 2002.  He would have received each year $ 61,591.59, which is equivalent to 50% of his basic salary.

[70]           Appellant would be allowed during the bridging period to take other employment and would not be required to account for his earnings or have them impact on the amount he would receive from respondent.  In other words, under respondent's program, he would not be required to mitigate the amount he receives during the five year bridging period.

[71]           The payments during the bridging period are on a weekly basis and would have commenced for the period starting on September 12, 2002.  Thus appellant would have received payments as of July 12, 2006 totalling $ 236,101.07, covering the past three years and ten months.

[72]           Over the next 14 months appellant would have received $ 71,856.75.  Since these payments would come due in the future I would discount[19] that amount by $ 3,353.32 to establish the sum due as of the date of this judgment (July 12, 2006) at $ 68,503.43.  The total amount of damages due to appellant to compensate for the payments he would have received while on a pre‑retirement leave of absence during the five year bridging period is $ 304,604.50 ($ 236,101.07 + $ 68,503.43).

Interest and the additional indemnity.

[73]           Appellant claims interest and the additional indemnity (art. 1619 C.C.Q.).  The parties made no submissions on this matter.  The action was commenced in February 2002.  I would grant interest and the additional indemnity on $ 103,072.69 from the date of service.  The payments during the pre‑retirement leave of absence would have been on a weekly basis commencing on September 12, 2002, and continuing for five years until September 12, 2007.  I would grant interest and the additional indemnity on $ 61,591.50 for each of the first three years from approximately mid‑point of each year (March 12, 2003, 2004, 2005).  For the fourth year I would grant interest and the additional indemnity for the payments in that year of $ 51,326.25 for the 10‑month period commencing September 12, 2005 from the mid‑point (February 12, 2006).  Finally on the discounted amount of $ 68,503.43 for the coming 14 months, interest and the additional indemnity should be paid from July 12, 2006.

_____________

[74]           Thus I would maintain the appeal on the principal ground and award damages to appellant in the amount of $ 414,676.24 as follows:

1.      Annual salary and benefits for a period

      of 14 months:                                                 $ 149,307.87

     The bonus for 2002 (pro-rata):                     $   10,470.57

$ 159,778.44

     Less mitigation                                               $   56,705.75             $ 103,072.69

 

2.      Payments appellant would have received ,after 14 months,

     for five years while on a pre‑retirement leave of absence

     during the bridging period without any requirement of

     mitigation:                                                                                           $ 304,604.50

                                                                                                            $ 407,677.19

With interest and the additional indemnity as set out in the immediately preceding paragraph.

THE SUBSIDIARY GROUND OF APPEAL

[75]           Appellant submits, subsidiarly, that if payments during the bridging period are not awarded, the damages should be based on a notice period of 27 months.

[76]           Since I am of the view that the first ground of appeal is well founded it is not, strictly speaking, necessary to deal with the subsidiary ground of appeal.  I will, nonetheless, do so in view of the full arguments presented by the parties.

[77]           Appellant argues that based on the cumulative effect of a large number of factors in his favour and the trend of the jurisprudence in recent years, the award of damages based on 15 months notice is unreasonable, and that a proper award should have been based on 27 months.

[78]           Respondent, on the other hand, contends that the facts of this case and the jurisprudence support the award based on 15 months notice as being reasonable in the circumstances, and it should not be interfered with.

[79]           Appellant was a faithful and efficient employee of respondent continuously from 1981 to 2001.  He commenced working for respondent upon graduation from university and moved up the corporate ladder so that, by 2001, he was amongst the top 200 employees in the hierarchy of respondent.  The latter is one of the most important commercial enterprises in Canada operating in this country and internationally.  It has some 18,000 employees.  When appellant was dismissed he was a part of management and just below the executive level.  In 1981, he was sought out by Jacques Côté, one of respondent's executives, and asked to return to employment with respondent after an absence of some three years (he had worked for respondent from 1971 to 1978).  By 1997, he had a secure position as director of marketing for the real estate division.

[80]           Jacques Côté, an executive and vice-president of respondent who had been placed in charge of the reorganization of respondent's ailing asset, St‑Lawrence (of which he was made president, in 1997), recruited appellant as part of his senior management team to work as director of commercial for St‑Lawrence.  Appellant was also appointed director of the company.  This was described as a lateral move.  Côté, (and his team) was given the task of attempting to make St‑Lawrence into a viable and profitable operation.  Appellant was told that the challenge had risks but that, if they succeeded, it would be a significant achievement and good for his career.  Côté testified that appellant was his second in command.[20]

[81]           The risk to which Côté referred was that if the attempt to make St‑Lawrence into a profitable venture failed, it (or its assets) would have to be sold or liquidated.  If appellant accepted the challenge and the risk he would be leaving a secure position, and would not have a job in the event of failure.  In the words of Côté, it was a "do or die" situation.  This risk was to be weighed against the advantage that if the team succeeded in making St‑Lawrence profitable, the career of appellant would be enhanced.

[82]           The trial judge wrote:

[25] Mr. Aksich saw the change as a challenge and nice way to finish his career at CPR.

[83]           With respect, I do not think this adequately describes what was perceived and anticipated not only by appellant, but also by Jacques Côté.  It was the latter who testified that success would result in a "very interesting way" for appellant to finish or cap his career with respondent:

(…)

BY Me GREY

What was represented to Mr. Aksich when he was recruited?  What was represented to him as an advantage to making that move.

BY Me FACCHIN

If any, right?

BY THE COURT

Yes.

BY Me FACCHIN

Because we're talking about facts here.  I just don't want us to get into hypotheses of why Mr. Coté would've thought that Mr. Aksich would've accepted the position.

BY THE COURT

Okay.  No.  No, I will allow the question when it deals with what was represented to Mr. Aksich to convince him to come with you in that project.  And that's a fact, what was discussed.

BY Me FACCHIN

That's right.

A          Okay.  Well, was represented to Mr. Aksich, is that this was going to be a very challenging position, that we would succeed; there was a very major risk, but that we would succeed.  And that was… would be a nice way for him to finish his career at CP.

BY Me GREY

Q         What do you mean by saying finish his career?

A          Well, essentially, I knew that Mr. Aksich was not that many years away from the end of his career.  I saw this as a, as I saw it for myself, as a very interesting way of capping his career with the company Canadian Pacific.

Q         Did the railway in fact succeeded?

A          Yes.  You're talking of the St. Lawrence and Hudson Railway?

Q         Yes.

A          Yes, we did succeed

(…)

(my underlining)

[84]           Côté also discussed with appellant advancement to the executive level which he considered was merited, and made an informal undertaking to achieve that objective.

[85]           It is well to keep in mind that Jacques Côté was an executive and vice-president of respondent.  As for appellant, success meant enhancement to his career and the possibility of advancement to the executive level:

(…)

Q         Did you get an increase in salary when you joined it?

A          No, I did not.

Q         Was the previous post, in your mind, a risky post, the real estate post?

A          No.

Q         Then what was in it for you?  Why did you go?

A          What was in it for me was that this would be… I viewed it as the last kick in the career to move up the next notch, to, you know, assume a risk, assume responsibility, and if we could deliver on that risk, as I felt we could, to benefit from it personally.

Q         Who did you discuss that with?

A          Jacques Coté.

Q         And what did he tell you?

A          Jacques felt that… very comfortable… very comfortably saying that the position had the… would be growing, would be rapidly evolving, and that this would be a great way to, you know, to get the career position for the last push.

Q         And what did he tell you about if the company failed?

A          Failure was not an option.  If the company failed, we would've been looking for jobs; the company would obviously try to accommodate; there's no way the company could accommodate the… you know, a bankrupt venture.  They would probably sell it off, that was his assumption; his assumption was that it would be sold to either the CN or to one of the U.S. roads.

Q         So did he tell you what you could expect in the event of success?

A          I guess what… you know, specifically, no.  What he… what he felt, and strongly supported, was the idea that this would be a great career movement, and that it would be an opportunity to sand and to be able to really participate in the venture, and basically felt that it was a very positive career movement.

Q         Was there talk of the executive positions?

A          Yes.

BY THE COURT

I'm sorry, I didn't get that?

BY Me GREY

Q         Of executive status?

A          Yes, there was.  Jacques felt that the… that it was just a matter of a couple of months to finalize the securing of executive status, and which had some perks with it; it had the form of stock options, it had cars, it had numerous other benefits, and that was obviously the first step in what he felt was the direction that it would take.

(…)

(my underlining)

[86]           The operation turned out to be a brilliant success.  There was a complete turnaround and from a situation of recurring annual deficits in the order of $ 65,000,000, very substantial profits ($ 145,000,000 in 2000) were generated.  Indeed, the shares of St‑Lawrence or its assets would not have to be sold or liquidated.  Instead its operations would be integrated into those of CPR.  As for appellant, he was dismissed from his employment ‑ a somewhat perverse recompense for accepting the risk with St‑Lawrence, for the remarkable success of the operation and a far cry from the prospective rewarding culmination of a long career, involving almost his entire working life, and perhaps an executive position.

[87]           In a 45 page booklet prepared by respondent there is an eloquent review of the remarkable success accomplished by the team to which appellant was recruited.  The title of the publication is significant:

St. Lawrence & Hudson Railway

THE RAILWAY THAT DID

"The Turnaround of CPR's Eastern Operations"

[88]           The dedication reads:

"The Railway That Did"

is dedicated to

St. Lawrence & Hudson Railway employees

whose spirit, pride and dedication

helped rebuild a successful organization

in the Eastern Canada and the US Northeast.

[89]           Taking into consideration the 20 continuous years that appellant loyally worked for respondent (he also worked for respondent for seven years immediately upon graduating from university), his position of responsibility, his age, the accomplishment of the goals fixed by his employer, his senior position, the difficulty of finding employment with similar conditions, his assuming the risk in accepting the challenge of making St‑Lawrence profitable and the unfairness of being made a victim of the success, appellant was entitled to a significantly lengthy notice period.  Having regard to the criteria set out in art. 2091 C.C.Q. and the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in Wallace the 24 months notice confirmed in that case should have been awarded by the trial judge in the case before us.[21]

[90]           With respect for the trial judge, it is my view that she erred in law, in not setting "the high end period of notice of termination"[22] as a guiding principle in this case and then determining the lengthy time which would constitute a reasonable notice period for the calculation of damages on that basis.  I consider that the trial judge failed to properly give effect to the applicable principles or give adequate weight to the appropriate factors in determining the length of the reasonable notice period in the circumstances of this case.

[91]           It is my opinion that if the principal ground of appeal had failed, the subsidiary ground should be maintained and damages should be fixed at the equivalent of appellant's annual salary of $ 127,978.18 for the reasonable notice period of 24‑months.  I would grant the bonus of $ 14,781.98 which he would have received for the year 2002.  However there was a total lack of proof regarding a bonus for the year 2003, and no amount should be awarded as damages to compensate for a pro-rata bonus in that year.  On this basis, the damages to which appellant would be entitled amount to $ 177,400.93 calculated as follows:

  1. The equivalent of two years salary (2 x $ 127,978.18):          $ 255,956.36

 

  1. Bonus for 2002:                                                                               $  14,781.98

                    $ 270,738.34

 

There would be mitigation of these damages by the following items:

  1. The amount received as severance:                                               $ 28 889.00
  2. Six weeks salary received in July and August 2001:                    $ 14,488.00
  3. CPR's contributions to fringe benefits:                                           $   2,019.75
  4. Earnings in 2002 from his corporation Ragusa

($ 42,024 - $ 19,000) =                                                                    $ 23,024.00

  1. Earnings for 6.5 months in 2003 from his corporation

Ragusa based on $ 65,000 for that year mentioned

in the judgment at paragraph [85]:                                                  $ 24,916.66

$ 93,337.41

__________

            Net amount of damages                                                                 $ 177,400.93

[92]           In his subsidiary ground, appellant also submits, alternatively, that at the very least he should have been paid the amount provided by respondent's standard severance policy at the time his employment was terminated.  He points out that when he was dismissed, respondent offered him a severance payment equivalent to 71 weeks salary purportedly pursuant to its standard policy.  This represents three weeks of his basic annual salary for each year of continuous employment since June 1981 plus 11 weeks for other benefits.  The severance package amounted to $ 169,400.  To receive this amount appellant would have to sign a "Release and Indemnity."  The text of that document reads in part:

RELEASE AND INDEMNITY

IN CONSIDERATION of the receipt of One Hundred and Sixty Nine Thousand Four Hundred Dollars ($169,400), less applicable deductions, and other benefits from Canadian Pacific Railway Company ("CPR") as described in the letter from CPR to me, dated July 12, 2001, I, Anthony Aksich, on my behalf and on behalf of my heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, hereby release and forever discharge CPR, its present and former directors, officers, agents, insurers, employees, successors, assigns, affiliates, subsidiaries and partnerships (collectively the "Company") from any and all actions, causes of action, claims or demands which I have, have had, or may have against the Company arising out of, or in any way connected with, my employment and the termination of my employment with CPR including, without limitation, any actions, causes of action, claims or demands for severance pay; pay in lieu of notice, overtime pay; the loss of pension, medical, insurance or welfare plans and any other benefits contributed to or sponsored by CPR on my behalf; or claims related to alleged violations of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGE that the aforesaid sum of One Hundred and Sixty Nine Thousand Four Hundred Dollars ($169,400), includes all amounts to which I am entitled under the Canada Labour Code and in consideration of the aforesaid sum I agree to withdraw any complaint or alternatively agree not to lay such a complaint with Human Resources Development Canada with respect to the termination of my employment.

(…)

(emphasis in text and my underlining)

[93]           Appellant contends that respondent erred in its calculation of the amount offered.  He submits that he should have also been offered three weeks for each of the years he worked between 1971 and 1978 thus providing for an amount equivalent to 92 weeks salary.  He also asserts that respondent should have increased the amount of his yearly salary for the purpose of the calculation by adding a bonus of $ 20,000.  According to appellant, the total amount he should have been offered under respondent's standard severance policy is $ 265,389.62.  He correctly points out that under the standard severance policy there is no requirement for the employee to account for his or her earnings after the severance.  In other words, there is no issue of mitigation.

[94]           Appellant has failed to show that the years from 1971 to 1978 should have been taken into consideration by respondent thus providing him with an additional 21 weeks (7 x 3) for a total of 92 weeks.  As to whether the yearly amount of salary should have taken into consideration the bonus, evidence is lacking to show that respondent should have done so as part of its standard severance policy.

[95]           It is significant that respondent acknowledged, by its offer of the severance payment, that according to its standard policy, appellant was entitled to $ 169,400 (with no mitigation for subsequent earnings), if he signed the release.  Yet at the time of the dismissal, he was paid only $ 28,889.

[96]           Furthermore, in a letter dated August 3, 2001, addressed to appellant's lawyer respondent's representative, from its legal department, referred to the offer of $ 169,400 as an amount which would satisfy legal requirements[23] when he stated:

(…)

(4)        Adequacy of Severance Package - a review of court awards for employees of a similar age in similar positions with a similar length of service demonstrates that the package being offered is well within the range of reasonable notice.

[97]           Respondent's plea refers to the $ 169,400.00 severance offer as being in conformity with its standards in these terms:

(…)

41.       The offer made to the Plaintiff at the time of termination of employment was commensurate with Company standards and took into consideration the Plaintiff's years of service as well as other factors necessary in establishing notice requirements;

(…)

[98]           Appellant, in good faith, and in my view correctly, believed that he was entitled to the benefits of the pre‑retirement leave of absence and payments during the bridging period.  As we have seen, this represents an amount of $ 304,604.50.  Under all the circumstances in this case, it was unfair of respondent to require appellant in the "Release and Indemnity" document to renounce to that claim in order for him to get the amount respondent acknowledged was due to him pursuant to its standard severance policy.

[99]           It is also questionable whether that release could be validly made in light of art. 2092 C.C.Q.,[24] which prohibits the renunciation by an employee to seek compensation for damages suffered because of an insufficient notice of termination.  Furthermore, the "Release and Indemnity" improperly, in my view, includes claims for pension benefits and a release for the possible infringement of provisions of the Labour Code and the Human Rights Code

[100]       Under the alternative subsidiary conclusion, I thus would have condemned respondent to pay appellant $ 169,400, if I had not under the first subsidiary ground concluded that he be paid $ 177,400.93.

[101]       Had I not reached the conclusion that appellant was entitled to all the benefits accruing to or vested in him during the notice period, which included a five year pre‑retirement leave of absence during a bridging period and payments resulting therefrom, I would have granted the subsidiary ground of appeal and increased the amount of the condemnation against respondent to $ 177,400.93, with interest and the additional indemnity from the date of service.

Moral damages.

[102]       Appellant contends that the comportment and acts of respondent caused him moral damages.  He argues that he was subjected to humiliation and unfair treatment and alleges that respondent manifested a lack of proper consideration for a long time loyal and competent senior employee.

[103]       He claims that the moral damages are due to him because of the following events:

1)     He was induced by respondent to leave a secure position as the director of marketing for the real estate division to accept the challenge of a new position which carried with it the risk that if he and the members of the team failed in the operation to make St‑Lawrence profitable they would not have a job, but on the other hand, if they succeeded it would be advantageous for his career.  Then, in spite of the brilliant success of the operation, appellant was dismissed from employment;

2)     On May 31, 2001, it was announced by respondent that appellant was appointed to a position on a full time basis as part of the D&H strategic review team.  It was described as a "key change."  The notice circulated on that date reads in part:

Eastern Network Integration

On June 1st, many of the changes to integrate the Eastern Network into the CPR functional organization will take effect.  Since the initial announcement on April 30th, the integration team has conducted reviews and developed recommendations, both to satisfy the integration needs and to ensure the integrity of our current eastern service levels.  Recently, Jacques Coté (sic) also announced his intention to retire.  As a result, it is critical that we move ahead and implement these changes in a timely fashion to ensure that continuity is maintained and employees have clarity around their new roles.

The key changes, effective June 1st, are as follows:

-           Fred Green, Vice-President, Marketing will assume responsibility for Expressway and the strategic review of the D&H property.  Fred will work with Ray O'Mearas's (sic) team to grow the Expressway franchise.  Tony Aksich will join the D&H strategic review team on a full‑time basis.

(my underlining)

The author of the communiqué was Hugh MacDiarmid the executive vice‑president commercial of respondent.  He had previously told appellant that he would be pleased with what was coming out and Jacques Côté said that he had found a position for him.

3)     Appellant was feted, at a celebratory luncheon, by his fellow employees complimenting him on having a suitable position and then, without warning, on July 12, 2001, he was dismissed;

4)     He was not, at any time, advised that a dismissal from employment was contemplated.  He was not given an opportunity for an input on his part but was faced with a "fait accompli" executed in ten to fifteen minutes.  Under the circumstances, this was a brutal and shocking way to end a relationship which had commenced in 1971 and then, after a three year absence, lasted continuously for over 20 years since 1981 because of return to employment at behest of respondent.

5)     His immediate supervisor Jacques Côté, who best knew his abilities and could have provided useful advice, was not consulted or asked for any input.

[104]       Appellant was called to a meeting with Fred Green on July 12, 2001.  He was completely unprepared for the shock of a dismissal.  His employment was terminated and he was offered a severance payment on condition that he sign the "Release and Indemnity."[25]

[105]       In my view, it is abusive to ask an employee to release an employer from responsibility under the pension plan and other benefits as well as for infringement of the Human Rights Code and the Labour Code.

[106]       Furthermore, having regard to the amount payable under its standard severance policy which would have provided $ 169,400 to appellant, respondent adopted an unduly harsh and unfair strategy of paying appellant a manifestly inadequate amount at the time of the termination of his employment.  It persisted with the unfair and unduly harsh position in its contestation to appellant's action asserting that he was not entitled to any further amount whatsoever.

[107]       All of the above circumstances in my view  entitle appellant to moral damages.  An intention to cause appellant harm or aggressive behaviour is not essential to establish a claim for moral damages.

[108]       Respondent's comportment, and the surrounding circumstances pertaining to the dismissal of appellant, who was in a vulnerable position, were unfair and caused the latter unnecessary humiliation, hurt and lowering of self-esteem.[26]  This renders respondent liable for moral damages.  I would set the amount of these damages at $ 20,000 regardless of whether it is under the main ground or on the subsidiary ground of appeal.

______________

[109]       I would thus maintain the appeal with costs, and increase the award to $ 427,677.19 by increasing the damages in compensation for loss of salary and benefits flowing from the reasonable notice period to $ 407,677.19, and I would, in addition, award moral damages of $ 20,000.

THE COSTS AWARDED TO APPELLANT [INCIDENTAL APPEAL]

[110]       In its incidental appeal respondent contends that appellant should not have been awarded costs in first instance in spite of his action being maintained for $ 102,712.22.  Art 477 C.p.c. provides that costs are against the losing party but that the judge may, for reasons he sets out, digress from this rule.  Respondent erroneously contends that appellant should not have been awarded costs because some of the grounds he alleges were not maintained.  That is not a valid reason, in this case, to vary the general rule.  The trial judge was right when condemning respondent to pay $ 102,712.22, to also condemn it to pay costs.  Respondent's ground of appeal should be dismissed.

______________

[111]       For the above reasons, I would maintain the appeal with costs (excluding the reproduction of the authorities which were filed beyond the delays) and modify the judgment of the Superior Court by condemning respondent to pay appellant $ 427,677.19.  I would award interest and the additional indemnity (art. 1619 C.C.Q.) as set out in paragraphs [68], and [73] above.  I would dismiss the incidental appeal with costs.

 

 

 

JOSEPH R. NUSS J.C.A.


 

 

MOTIFS DE LA JUGE BICH

 

 

[112]       D'accord avec mon collègue le juge Nuss, je suis d'avis que, selon la norme qu'exprime l'article 2091 C.c.Q., l'appelant avait droit à un délai de congé d'une durée de 24 mois. L'intimée ne lui ayant pas donné ce délai de congé, l'appelant doit donc être indemnisé du préjudice qu'il subit du fait de ce défaut. À la différence de mon collègue, je propose cependant que cette indemnité soit calculée d'une façon qui tienne compte de la politique interne de l'intimée en pareille matière, ce qui aura en l'espèce un impact non négligeable sur l'obligation de mitigation incombant à l'appelant.

[113]       Tout comme mon collègue, j'estime en outre que l'intimée a commis un abus par la manière dont elle a exercé son droit de rompre le contrat de travail. J'accorderais toutefois une somme inférieure à celle qu'il suggère en vue de réparer le préjudice moral dont l'appelant a souffert en conséquence de cet abus.

[114]       Par contre, avec déférence, je ne puis partager l'opinion de mon collègue sur la prétendue perte du congé préretraite offert en certains cas par l'intimée. À mon avis, en effet, l'appelant n'avait pas droit à ce congé au moment de la rupture, droit dont on ne peut pas considérer qu'il serait né ou qu'il lui aurait été acquis pendant le délai de congé qu'aurait dû lui donner par ailleurs l'intimée. On ne peut donc pas en tenir compte dans le calcul de l'indemnité due au salarié.

* * *

[115]       L'article 2091 C.c.Q. prescrit que :

2091.   Chacune des parties à un contrat à durée indéterminée peut y mettre fin en donnant à l'autre un délai de congé.

            Le délai de congé doit être raisonnable et tenir compte, notamment, de la nature de l'emploi, des circonstances particulières dans lesquelles il s'exerce et de la durée de la prestation de travail.

[116]       Chacune des parties au contrat de travail à durée indéterminée jouit donc de la faculté unilatérale de résilier le contrat, faculté dont l'exercice n'est assujetti qu'à la seule condition de donner à l'autre partie un délai de congé raisonnable. La durée précise de ce délai est fixée en tenant compte des facteurs énumérés au second alinéa de l'article 2091 C.c.Q., que la jurisprudence a précisés et complétés.

[117]       Je me permettrai de rappeler d'abord, brièvement, certaines des règles découlant de l'application de l'article 2091 C.c.Q., dans le contexte d'une résiliation qui ne met pas en cause un droit garanti par la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne ou, le cas échéant, la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés ou la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne (s'il s'agit, comme en l'espèce, d'un employeur relevant de la compétence fédérale en matière de relations de travail).

[118]       Il est communément admis et reconnu que l'employeur qui se prévaut de l'article 2091 C.c.Q. et résilie le contrat de travail peut choisir de ne pas donner le délai de congé, mais de mettre plutôt fin au contrat de façon immédiate tout en versant au salarié une indemnité équivalente au délai de congé raisonnable[27]. Dans le premier cas, le salarié continue de travailler pour l'employeur pendant la durée du délai de congé et il reçoit en échange toute la rémunération rattachée à l'exécution du travail (c'est-à-dire le salaire et autres avantages et bénéfices ayant une valeur pécuniaire). Dans le second cas, l'employeur, en guise d'indemnité, versera au salarié l'équivalent de la rémunération que celui-ci aurait normalement reçue s'il avait travaillé pendant la durée du délai de congé.

[119]       Lorsque l'employeur met fin au contrat sans donner au salarié le délai de congé raisonnable ou la totalité de l'indemnité équivalente, la résiliation n'en reste pas moins effective, mais le salarié peut alors obtenir compensation pour le préjudice qu'il subit par suite de l'absence ou de l'insuffisance de délai de congé : il réclamera donc l'indemnité équivalente en justice (ou la différence entre ce qu'il a reçu, le cas échéant, et ce qu'il aurait dû recevoir), sous réserve de son obligation de mitigation.

[120]       La jurisprudence et la doctrine font par ailleurs bien voir qu'il ne s'agit pas, en accordant l'indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé, de réparer le préjudice qui découle de la terminaison même du contrat de travail : dans la mesure où l'employeur (comme le salarié du reste) a le droit de résilier le contrat, unilatéralement et sans motif, les dommages que peut réclamer le salarié sont limités à la rémunération qu'il aurait reçue pendant la durée du délai de congé applicable (moins les divers facteurs de mitigation).

[121]       Finalement, les règles relatives à l'abus de droit s'appliquent en matière de rupture du contrat de travail comme en toute autre matière contractuelle : il n'est donc pas impossible qu'un employeur abuse de la faculté de résiliation que lui confère l'article 2091 C.c.Q. et, en pareil cas, le salarié pourra réclamer, de façon distincte, la réparation du préjudice résultant de la commission de cet abus de droit. Toutefois, encore là, il ne s'agira pas de compenser le salarié pour les dommages résultant de la terminaison du contrat per se, mais bien pour les dommages résultant directement de l'abus commis par l'employeur à cette occasion.

[122]       Bref, comme l'expliquait déjà le juge Gendreau dans Société hôtelière Canadien Pacifique c. Hoeckner :

Ceci dit, tout congédiement, même celui réalisé dans les meilleures conditions, provoque chez celui qui en est éprouvé un véritable effet traumatisant souvent marqué par l'inquiétude, l'anxiété et le stress. Ce préjudice moral dérive de la cessation d'emploi elle-même. Il ne sera pas indemnisé comme tel parce qu'il découle nécessairement de l'exercice d'un droit. Au surplus, dans les faits, ce dommage est, tout au  moins partiellement, indemnisé par l'avis-congé puisque sa durée est fonction d'une multitude de facteurs, dont l'ancienneté chez l'employeur et le temps nécessaire à retrouver une situation comparable.

Toutefois, l'exercice du droit de congédier peut s'accompagner d'un comportement vexatoire, malicieux, empreint de mauvaise foi ou simplement d'une conduite abusive. Cet abus constitue alors une faute de l'employeur et sa commission donnera évidemment ouverture à réparation pour l'employé qui en est victime.[28]

[123]       Qu'en est-il ici de l'application de ces règles?

1.         Durée du délai de congé raisonnable

[124]       Je reconnais qu'en fixant à 24 mois la durée du délai de congé raisonnable auquel l'appelant aurait eu droit, l'on se place carrément, dans l'état actuel de la jurisprudence, à la limite supérieure du spectre des possibilités raisonnables. Les circonstances de l'espèce, toutefois, autorisent cette détermination, comme le démontre éloquemment mon collègue le juge Nuss.

[125]       En effet, l'on a affaire ici à un salarié d'une compétence hors pair, dont le dossier professionnel est plus qu'exemplaire. Sans être un des hauts dirigeants de l'entreprise, il en est tout de même l'un des cadres supérieurs ou, à tout le moins, il fait partie du « upper middle-management », tout juste sous la classe des « executives », à laquelle il pouvait d'ailleurs aspirer, comme on le lui avait fait miroiter. À cela s'ajoutent les facteurs suivants : ancienneté (27 ans, dont 20 années consécutives), âge (51 ans au moment de la résiliation, qui prend ici la forme d'un licenciement, lequel est traité comme un congédiement sans cause aux fins de l'application du Code civil du Québec), salaire élevé (plus de 120 000 $), rareté des emplois de même niveau, efforts de mitigation soutenus.

[126]       On doit aussi tenir compte du fait qu'en lui proposant une affectation chez St. Lawrence and Hudson Railway Company, filiale qui devait ultérieurement, une fois sa rentabilité rétablie, être ramenée dans le giron de l'intimée, celle-ci, sans offrir de garantie formelle, avait tout de même laissé entendre à l'appelant que son avenir professionnel en son sein était assuré. C'est un poste que l'appelant n'aurait peut-être pas accepté s'il avait su qu'on le licencierait quelques mois à peine après qu'il eut réintégré les rangs de l'intimée. Tous ces éléments se conjuguent et justifient en l'occurrence un délai de congé de 24 mois.

[127]       Il est vrai que la jurisprudence ne regorge pas de cas où l'on accorde un délai de congé de plus de 18 mois[29]. Il ne s'agit pas, en effet, d'accorder des délais de congé si longs qu'ils en viennent à neutraliser la faculté de résiliation de l'employeur ou la rendent onéreuse au point de la stériliser[30], de la rendre illusoire[31] ou de l'entraver. Tout est question de faits et d'espèce cependant, les précédents n'ayant en cette matière qu'une valeur relative. En n'accordant qu'un délai de 15 mois, la juge de première instance me semble, avec égards, avoir négligé certains des éléments particuliers du présent dossier, lequel sort de l'ordinaire.

2.         Calcul de l'indemnité équivalente au délai de congé raisonnable

[128]       Comme on l'a vu précédemment, le principe d'indemnisation applicable en matière d'indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé est le suivant : l'ex-salarié a droit à une indemnité égale à la rémunération qui lui aurait été versée si l'employeur lui avait donné le délai de congé approprié et s'il avait donc travaillé pendant tout ce temps. La rémunération en question inclut le salaire et tous les avantages pécuniaires rattachés à l'exécution du travail ou prévus par le contrat de travail. Cependant, en vertu de la règle de la mitigation, on devra déduire de cette indemnité les sommes que le salarié a pu, le cas échéant, gagner ailleurs grâce à son activité professionnelle pendant la période équivalant à celle du délai de congé.

[129]       En l'espèce, je m'en remets aux calculs de mon collègue sur la valeur du salaire et des avantages qui auraient été payables au salarié, en fonction d'un délai de congé de 24 mois, incluant le boni de 2002. Le total est de 270 738,34 $.

[130]       De cette somme, il faudra déduire les 14 488 $ reçus par l'appelant pendant les semaines qui se sont écoulées de la date de l'annonce qui lui a été faite de sa résiliation (12 juillet 2001) à la date à laquelle cette résiliation a pris effet (le 31 août 2001), ces semaines devant être incluses dans le délai de congé de 24 mois (c'est une portion en nature, si l'on peut dire, de ce dernier).

[131]       Il faudra également en déduire les 23 889 $ reçus par l'appelant au moment de son départ, le 31 août 2001, et versés par l'intimée en guise d'indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé.

[132]       Pour ce qui est de la mitigation, il faut d'abord faire le compte des sommes gagnées par l'appelant entre le moment de la terminaison de son emploi (31 août 2001) et la date d'expiration du délai de congé de 24 mois (12 juillet 2003), tout en considérant cependant que, pendant qu'il était à l'emploi de l'intimée, il gagnait déjà des revenus externes de 19 000 $. Les sommes qui pourraient potentiellement être soustraites sont les suivantes (et je reprends ici intégralement le calcul de mon collègue le juge Nuss) :

Pour l'année 2002 : 42 024 $ - 19 000 $ = 23 024 $

Pour l'année 2003 : (65 000 $ x 6.5 mois/12 mois) - (19 000 $ x 6.5 mois/12 mois) = 35 208,33 $ - 10 291,67 $ = 24 916,66 $

Total : 47 940,66 $

[133]       Convient-il de soustraire la totalité de cette somme de l'indemnité due à l'appelant? L'appelant répond à cette question par la négative, affirmant qu'il a au moins droit, sans mitigation aucune, à cette portion de l'indemnité qui correspond à celle que lui a offerte l'intimée au moment de la résiliation[32]. Voyons ce qu'il en est.

[134]       En vertu de la politique même de l'intimée en matière de délai de congé, le salarié licencié se voit offrir une indemnité salariale calculée sur la base d'un délai de congé fixé selon la formule suivante : trois semaines par année de service multipliées par le nombre d'années de service, plus 11 semaines pour tenir compte des avantages sociaux. L'intimée s'est conformée à cette politique en offrant à l'appelant une indemnité de 169 400 $, à valoir à compter du 31 août 2001, ce qui, d'après ses propres calculs[33], équivaut à un délai de congé de 71 semaines (c'est-à-dire de 1,37 année, ou 16,4 mois) rémunéré au salaire de base.

[135]       Évidemment, si l'appelant avait accepté l'indemnité ainsi proposée, il n'aurait pas eu à remettre à l'intimée les sommes gagnées par la suite dans le cadre ou à l'occasion de ses activités professionnelles. Il aurait donc profité de ce qu'on pourrait appeler un « avantage de non-mitigation », avantage dont on peut penser qu'il a été pris en compte par l'intimée lorsqu'elle a élaboré sa politique de résiliation. L'intimée n'ayant finalement pas versé (sauf pour une petite partie) l'indemnité prévue par sa politique, l’appelant conserve-t-il cet avantage de non-mitigation, jusqu'à concurrence de la somme qui lui fut offerte?

[136]       À mon avis, l'ensemble de la preuve démontre que la politique de résiliation de l'intimée, notamment quant à la question de l'indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé, constitue non pas une condition de travail à proprement parler mais un avantage lié à l'emploi, qui fait partie intégrante des termes du contrat de travail. D'une certaine façon, l'intimée a elle-même établi une sorte de norme minimale qui, pour être contractuelle, ne l'en oblige pas moins et à laquelle elle ne peut déroger. Je dis « norme minimale », car, en raison de l'article 2092 C.c.Q., cette politique ne peut empêcher l'appelant de réclamer (et d'obtenir) tout ce à quoi il peut avoir droit en vertu de l'article 2091 C.c.Q.

[137]       Il me semble par conséquent normal que, pour la période et le montant correspondant au délai de congé auquel l'appelant avait droit selon cette politique, aucune mitigation ne soit effectuée par soustraction des revenus que l'appelant a pu gagner pendant l'équivalent de ce délai. Le fait que l'offre ait été faite à l'appelant « without prejudice », comme l'indique la lettre de licenciement du 12 juillet 2001, ne peut exonérer l'intimée de respecter sa propre politique.

[138]       L'appelant ne serait donc tenu de mitiger ses dommages que pour l'excédent de cette somme, excédent qui s'explique à la fois par la durée plus grande du délai de congé auquel il avait droit selon la loi et par la prise en considération des avantages sociaux pendant toute cette période. Autrement dit, il ne doit pas y avoir de mitigation jusqu'à concurrence de 169 400 $, seule la portion résiduelle de l'indemnité devant être affectée, ce qui permet de tenir compte à la fois 1° de la différence de durée entre l'indemnité proposée par l'intimée à compter du 31 août 2001 et l'indemnité que je propose, à compter de la même date, et 2° de la différence entre le facteur salarial auquel l'appelant a droit en vertu du droit commun et le facteur salarial employé par l'intimée aux fins de son offre de 169 400 $.

[139]       En conséquence de tout ce qui précède, le calcul de l'indemnité due au salarié est le suivant, étape par étape :

1°        Le délai de congé étant de 24 mois, la rémunération (salaire de base et autres avantages) de l'appelant pendant ce délai de congé plus son boni de l'année 2002 totalisent 270 738,34 $.

2°        De cette somme, il faut déduire 14 488 $ (voir supra, paragr. [130]), c'est-à-dire le salaire et autres avantages reçus par l'appelant entre le 12 juillet et le 31 août 2001, période au cours de laquelle il a travaillé pour l’intimée.

3°        Au 31 août 2001, l'appelant avait donc, en principe, le droit de recevoir, comme indemnité correspondant au reste du délai de congé, la somme de 256 250,34 $, sous réserve du facteur de mitigation.

4°        De ces 256 250,34 $, 169 400 $ ne doivent pas être affectés par la mitigation, soit 66,11 %. Seule la portion résiduelle (86 850,34 $ ou 33,89 %) peut être affectée par la mitigation.

5°        Les revenus susceptibles d'être soustraits au chapitre de la mitigation sont, comme on l'a vu précédemment, de 47 940,66 $ (voir supra, paragr. [132] in fine). Il faut déduire de l'indemnité 33,89 % de cette somme, soit 16 247,09 $.

6°        Il faut enfin déduire de l'indemnité la somme de 23 889 $ déjà payée par l'intimée le 31 août 2001, pour tenir lieu de délai de congé (voir supra, paragr. [131]).

7°        Le résultat est le suivant :

256 250,34 $ (indemnité tenant lieu d'un délai de congé de 24 mois incluant les six semaines travaillées et rémunérées en juillet et en août 2001)

moins

16 247,09  (facteur de mitigation)

moins

23 889 $ (somme payée par l'intimée en « acompte » du délai de congé)

Total : 216 114,25 $.

[140]       Il faut par ailleurs apporter un ajustement minime à ce total, en en retranchant, au titre de la contribution de l'employeur à certains avantages sociaux, une somme de 2 019,75 $, et cela pour les raisons qu'explique le juge Nuss dans son opinion.

[141]       En définitive, l'appelant a donc le droit de recevoir 214 094,50 $ comme indemnité équivalant au délai de congé.

[142]       Je conviens que la méthode proposée ci-dessus est inédite et n'est guère susceptible de faire l'objet d'une application générale, sauf là où l'employeur a adopté une politique générale de résiliation qui, soit explicitement, soit implicitement, est intégrée au contrat de travail du salarié. Hormis ces cas particuliers, on appliquera plutôt la règle ordinaire de mitigation.

[143]       Je tiens en outre à préciser que je n'affirme pas ici que la règle de mitigation appliquée en l'espèce devrait valoir également dans les cas où l'employeur, en l'absence d'une politique intégrée au contrat de travail, fait au salarié qu'il congédie ou licencie une offre de délai de congé ou d'indemnité équivalente.

3.         Le congé de préretraite

[144]       Comme le montrent la jurisprudence et la doctrine[34], l'application du principe d'indemnisation ordinaire ne va pas sans problème, particulièrement lorsque vient le moment de statuer sur le sort d'avantages tels les régimes d'options d'achat d'actions et, peut-être plus encore, les bénéfices rattachés aux régimes de retraite. Dans ce dernier cas, les difficultés viennent souvent de ce que l'on doit distinguer la perte qui résulte de l'absence ou de l'insuffisance du délai de congé de la perte qui résulte de la terminaison même du lien d'emploi, seule la première étant susceptible d'être indemnisée. Peuvent également se soulever des questions rattachées au caractère direct ou indirect, certain ou incertain du préjudice associé à la perte d'un avantage de retraite (qui n'est parfois qu'une perte de chance) quand ce n'est pas à la quantification même de cette perte.

[145]       En l'espèce, le problème est d'un autre ordre et résulte d'une politique de l'intimée, politique prévoyant, dans certains cas, un congé de préretraite dont l'appelant prétend avoir été indûment privé par le fait d'avoir été licencié sans préavis suffisant.

[146]       Dans le but apparent de motiver et de fidéliser ses salariés, l'intimée offre une politique de cessation d'emploi dont les termes, qui sont assez avantageux, varient selon l'ancienneté (calculée d'après une formule permettant d'accumuler des points, pour chaque année de service continu) et le niveau d'emploi du salarié. Un des aspects de cette politique est en jeu ici et concerne la possibilité pour le salarié d'obtenir un congé de préretraite l'amenant à l'âge auquel il peut bénéficier d'une retraite anticipée (« early retirement »).

[147]       Le régime de retraite de l'intimée prévoit en effet ce qui suit en matière de retraite anticipée :

7.01     Normal Retirement Date

(a)        (i)         The Normal Retirement Date of a Member shall be the last day of the month in which the Member attains the age of sixty-five (65) years.

[…]

7.02     Early Retirement Date

            A Member of Former Member may retire early on the last day of any month in the ten (10)-year period preceding the Normal Retirement Date.

9.02     Early Retirement

            (a)        Subject to subparagraph (c), where a Member retires with the Company's consent at an Early Retirement Date and has at least twenty-five years (25) of Pensionable Service, the sum of the Member's age and Pensionable Service is at least eighty-five (85) years and the Member has attained the age of fifty-five (55) years, the Member is entitled to a pension equal in amount to […].[35]

[148]       Afin, vraisemblablement, d'atténuer l'effet d'une résiliation en permettant aux employés dotés d'une certaine ancienneté d'atteindre le moment où ils peuvent demander et obtenir une retraite anticipée, l'intimée, dans sa politique de cessation d'emploi, prévoit que si un salarié, au moment où l'on s'apprête à rompre le contrat, a accumulé 75 points et a au moins 50 ans, on lui offre le choix suivant :

-           soit le versement d'une indemnité salariale tenant lieu d'un délai de congé dont la durée est calculée sur la base suivante : trois semaines par année de service multipliées par le nombre d'années de service, plus 11 semaines;

-           soit la possibilité d'un congé de préretraite d'une durée maximale de cinq ans, pendant lequel le salarié demeure à l'emploi de l'intimée, sans obligation de fournir une quelconque prestation de travail, et reçoit une partie seulement de son salaire; ce congé prend fin à la date à laquelle, selon les termes précisés plus haut, le salarié devient éligible à une retraite anticipée.

[149]       Cette politique est mise en œuvre au moment où l'on annonce au salarié la rupture du contrat de travail : il a alors le choix entre les deux possibilités exprimées ci-dessus. S'il choisit le congé de préretraite, il n'y pas de résiliation, la modalité du congé s'y substituant à la date à laquelle la résiliation aurait autrement pris effet.

[150]       Au moment où on lui annonce son licenciement, le 12 juillet 2001, l'appelant, qui a 52,5 ans, a accumulé 20,2 ans de service totalisant 72,7 points. Selon la politique de l'intimée, il n'a donc pas droit au congé de préretraite mais seulement à l'indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé. En l'espèce, l'intimée a d'ailleurs offert à l'appelant une indemnité salariale équivalant à 16 mois, environ, de délai de congé, comme on l'a vu précédemment.

[151]       L'appelant soutient cependant que si l'intimée, en juillet 2001, lui avait donné le délai de congé exigible, plutôt que de lui offrir une indemnité salariale, il serait resté au travail pendant ce temps et aurait par conséquent ajouté à son ancienneté, atteignant ainsi le seuil de 75 points lui permettant de se prévaloir du congé de préretraite. En mettant fin immédiatement à son contrat, ou presque, l'intimée l'a indûment privé de cette possibilité. L’appelant estime donc avoir le droit d'être compensé pour la perte du congé de préretraite, en vertu de la règle voulant que l'indemnité tenant lieu du délai de congé soit équivalente non seulement au salaire mais à tous les avantages pécuniaires que le salarié aurait perçus s'il était resté au travail pendant la période de délai de congé. Bref, il réclame d'être compensé pour la perte d'un droit qui se serait, selon lui, cristallisé pendant la période de délai de congé.

[152]       Je ne crois pas devoir retenir ce point de vue, et cela en raison de la nature particulière de l'« avantage » dont il est question, qui ne peut pas être traité comme les avantages ordinairement liés à l'emploi (comme, par exemple, une commission, un boni ou une allocation automobile).

[153]       En effet, l'avantage dont l'appelant prétend avoir été privé est une modalité de terminaison d'emploi plutôt qu'un bénéfice associé à l'exécution du travail. Bien sûr, au sens large, la politique par laquelle l'intimée offre, à certaines conditions, un tel congé de préretraite est un bénéfice résultant du lien d'emploi existant entre les parties et, en ce sens, il est l'un des termes du contrat de travail unissant les parties. Cependant, la nature de ce bénéfice se distingue des bénéfices qu'on pourrait qualifier d'« ordinaires » en ce qu'il ne se concrétise et ne s'applique qu'au moment de la rupture du lien d'emploi et comme modalité de celle-ci. Ce n'est pas, pourrait-on dire, un bénéfice d'emploi, mais un bénéfice de fin d'emploi.

[154]       Or, en l'espèce, l'une des conditions prévues par la politique de l'intimée n'était pas remplie, l'appelant n'ayant pas atteint, au moment où on l'informe de son licenciement (le 12 juillet 2001) et, de même, au moment où ce licenciement se concrétise (le 31 août 2001), le seuil des 75 points enclenchant la possibilité du congé de préretraite. L'intimée n'avait donc pas à lui offrir cette possibilité et pouvait se contenter de lui donner un délai de congé raisonnable. Pendant la période de ce délai de congé, l'appelant ne pouvait pas acquérir le droit au congé de préretraite, ce dernier étant lui-même une modalité de résiliation destinée à tenir lieu de délai de congé. Autrement dit, selon la politique, le délai de congé et le congé de préretraite sont mutuellement exclusifs, étant les deux volets d'une alternative qui se concrétise au moment de la résiliation. Or, en l'espèce, lors de la résiliation, annoncée en juillet et effective en août 2001, l'appelant n'avait pas acquis l'ancienneté nécessaire pour lui permettre de se prévaloir du congé de préretraite. Il ne peut pas arguer du délai de congé pour prétendre, à l'expiration de ce délai (ou d'une partie de celui-ci), avoir acquis le droit de se prévaloir du congé de préretraite, ce dernier étant précisément destiné à servir de substitut au délai de congé.

[155]       S'il fallait conjuguer le délai de congé au congé de préretraite, on devrait d'ailleurs constater que l'appelant serait pécuniairement mieux traité, au bout du compte, que s'il avait atteint le seuil des 75 points au moment de son licenciement. En effet, dans cette hypothèse, l'appelant aurait, à l'été 2001, reçu, conformément à la politique de fin d'emploi de l'intimée, une offre comportant deux volets entre lesquels il aurait dû choisir : soit une indemnité équivalent à un certain délai de congé, soit un congé de préretraite. Il aurait vraisemblablement choisi le congé de préretraite, pour une durée de cinq ans, période pendant laquelle il aurait continué de recevoir la moitié, à peu près, de son salaire de base. Or, si l'on retenait sa prétention, l'appelant recevrait ici l'équivalent pécuniaire du délai de congé (au moins, pour les 14 mois nécessaires afin d'engranger les quelques points supplémentaires menant au seuil requis) et il obtiendrait également l'équivalent des sommes qu'il aurait reçues pendant le congé de préretraite : il se trouverait donc à cumuler des modalités de fin d'emploi qui sont mutuellement exclusives.

[156]       Obliger l'intimée à lui verser cette compensation équivaudrait donc à modifier sa politique de fin d'emploi, en rendant indirectement éligible au congé de préretraite une personne qui ne l'est pas : une telle modification ne me paraît ni possible ni justifiée, car elle change, en réalité, les termes du contrat qui unissait les parties.

[157]       En fait, en réclamant compensation pour la perte de la possibilité de se prévaloir du congé de préretraite, l'appelant cherche à obvier aux effets de la rupture même du lien d'emploi et non pas seulement au préjudice résultant de l'absence d'un délai de congé raisonnable. Sans doute l'intimée aurait-elle pu retarder la terminaison du contrat de l'appelant jusqu'à la date, somme toute assez proche, à laquelle il aurait atteint, par l'addition de son âge et de ses années de service, le seuil de 75 points. Mais elle n'était pas tenue de le faire, ni la loi ni les termes de sa politique ne l'y obligeant, pas plus qu'elle n'est tenue, sauf disposition contractuelle explicite à l'effet contraire, de garantir la pérennité d'un contrat de travail ou de garantir qu'elle gardera un salarié à son service jusqu'à ce que l'individu puisse profiter, par exemple, du délai de congé le plus généreux possible ou d'une pension de retraite maximale.

[158]       Il serait sans doute heureux que les employeurs gardent leurs salariés jusqu'à ce que ces derniers profitent des meilleurs avantages possibles au stade de la terminaison du contrat de travail, mais cela contredit l'idée même de résiliation unilatérale. Lorsque les parties sont unies par un contrat de travail à durée indéterminée, il y a toujours une épée de Damoclès qui pend sur la tête des parties, et particulièrement sur celle du salarié. C'est là, cependant, la conséquence inéluctable de la reconnaissance de la faculté de résiliation unilatérale. On ne peut  pas, en l'espèce, contourner cette réalité en faisant en sorte que le salarié profite, par l'effet du délai de congé, d'une modalité de terminaison d'emploi à laquelle il n'avait pas droit au moment où la rupture s'est matérialisée.

[159]       Peut-être la conduite de l'intimée, qui a résilié le contrat alors que l'appelant pouvait acquérir prochainement les points qui l'auraient rendu admissible au congé de préretraite, serait-elle un élément à considérer au chapitre de l'abus de droit. On reprocherait donc ici à l'intimée d'avoir tenté de contourner sa propre politique ou d'en éviter l'application. Cependant, malgré ma conclusion sur l'abus de droit (voir infra), la preuve ne révèle pas, à mon avis, que l'intimée ait délibérément tenté d'éviter l'application de sa politique ni même tenu compte de cet élément au moment de sa décision de résilier le contrat de travail. S'il y a abus de droit, ce n'est donc pas sous ce chef.

4.         Abus de droit et dommages moraux

[160]       Depuis l'arrêt de notre Cour Standard Broadcasting Corp. c. Stewart[36], la jurisprudence est plutôt réservée lorsque vient le moment d'appliquer à la résiliation unilatérale du contrat de travail les règles de l'abus de droit, et cela afin d'éviter que, d'une part, on ne se trouve à indemniser par là le salarié pour le préjudice, inévitable, qui résulte de la terminaison même du contrat de travail, et d'autre part, afin ne pas faire double emploi avec l'indemnité tenant lieu de délai de congé[37]. Comme l'écrit le juge Baudouin dans Stewart :

L’extension de la théorie de l’abus de droit au simple exercice négligent du droit doit donc, en matière de contrat de travail, être appliquée avec beaucoup de prudence, en dehors des hypothèses où manifestement il y a mauvaise foi ou faute intentionnelle, parce qu’en général le préjudice causé peut déjà avoir été compensé par l’indemnité de délai-congé.[38]

(L’italique est dans le texte original.)

[161]       Plus récemment, ma collègue la juge Mailhot faisait en ces termes le point sur l'état du droit en la matière :

[31]      L'arrêt de principe en la matière est certainement Standard Broadcasting Corp. c. Stewart [renvoi omis], dans lequel le juge Baudouin fait la distinction entre l'octroi d'une indemnité de délai de congé et l'octroi possible de dommages moraux additionnels fondés sur un abus de droit. Ainsi, alors que l'indemnité de délai de congé vient compenser les inconvénients liés au congédiement, l'indemnisation pour abus de droit n'existera que s'il y a négligence, mauvaise foi ou une faute identifiable de l'employeur. C’est donc dans les seuls cas où l’exercice du droit de résiliation unilatérale s’accompagne d’une faute caractéristique distincte de l’acte de congédier que l’octroi de dommages moraux en matière de congédiement sans cause sera justifié. Il pourra en être ainsi, par exemple, lorsque l’employé congédié a subi un préjudice sérieux à sa réputation ou qu’il a été congédié de façon humiliante, dégradante ou blessante.

[32]            Le critère pour l'application de la théorie de l'abus de droit en matière de congédiement est donc plus sévère que l'exercice raisonnable d'un droit et s'apparente à la mauvaise foi.  Dans certaines situations, le simple exercice négligent d'un droit pourra toutefois être considéré comme un abus de droit.  Cette approche restrictive en matière d’abus de droit évite que les dommages fondés sur l'abus de droit ne fassent double emploi avec l’indemnité de délai de congé qui constitue une indemnité pour les dommages normaux résultant du renvoi immédiat (stress, anxiété, etc.).

[33]            Ces principes furent rappelés récemment dans l'arrêt Shire Biochem Inc. c. King [renvoi omis], dont les faits présentaient certaines similarités avec la présente affaire :

[23] Ceci dit, comme le soulignait la Cour dans Standard Broadcasting et dans d'autres arrêts, il faut se garder des doubles indemnités.  En d'autres mots, en plus du délai de congé, l'employé n'aura droit à des dommages pour stress et inconvénients ou atteinte à la réputation que lorsqu'il fera la preuve que l'employeur a commis un abus de droit.  En somme, à moins d'une preuve claire que l'employé congédié a subi un préjudice sérieux à sa réputation ou qu'il a été congédié de façon humiliante, dégradante ou blessante, il n'y a pas lieu à des dommages moraux en sus de l'indemnité tenant lieu de préavis (Industries Flexart ltée c. Baril, J.E. 2003-478 (C.A.)).  Quant au stress et à l'anxiété associés à toute résiliation d'emploi, particulièrement lorsque inattendue, ils sont compensés dans le cadre de l'indemnité tenant lieu de préavis (Groupe Commerce (Le), compagnie d'assurance c. Chouinard, J.E. 95-474 (C.A.)).

(Je souligne.)

[34]            D'autre part, dans une affaire en provenance du Manitoba, Wallace c. United Grain Growers Ltd. [renvoi omis], la Cour suprême énonce sous la plume du juge Iacobucci certains principes voulant «que les employeurs devraient assumer une obligation de bonne foi et de traitement équitable dans le mode de congédiement, de sorte que tout manquement à cette obligation serait compensé par une prolongation de la période de préavis» et que cette obligation implique «que dans le cadre d'un congédiement, les employeurs doivent être francs, raisonnables et honnêtes avec leurs employés et éviter de se comporter de façon inéquitable ou de faire preuve de mauvaise foi en étant, par exemple, menteurs, trompeurs ou trop implacables». L'existence de cette obligation de bonne foi dans le mode de congédiement d'un employé incombait déjà aux employeurs au Québec en vertu du Code civil du Québec.

[35]            Le juge Iacobucci rappelait également le principe suivant lequel un employeur et un employé pouvaient résilier unilatéralement un contrat d'emploi :

Dans le cadre d'un contrat d'emploi à durée indéterminée, une partie peut procéder à la résiliation unilatérale du contrat.  Cette résiliation est qualifiée de congédiement, si elle origine de l'employeur, ou de démission, si elle origine de l'employé.  Si l'employeur congédie l'employé sans cause, il doit donner à ce dernier un préavis raisonnable (délai-congé) de la rupture prochaine du contrat ou une indemnité qui en tienne lieu.                                                            [39]

[162]       À la lumière de ces énoncés, j'estime que l'intimée a en l'espèce abusé de sa faculté de résiliation unilatérale. La preuve démontre que l'intimée a agi à l'endroit de l'appelant d'une manière désinvolte et cavalière, mettant fin abruptement et sans l'ombre d'un avertissement au contrat de travail d'un salarié modèle après avoir, quelques semaines auparavant, salué ses succès et annoncé son intégration dans un département-clef de l'entreprise, s'entêtant à lui refuser un délai de congé (ou une indemnité équivalente) dont elle n'a pourtant jamais nié l'exigibilité (puisqu'elle n'a jamais contesté l'absence de motif sérieux de rupture), exigeant une quittance dont certains termes paraissent, à première vue, contraires à l'ordre public ou à tout le moins excessifs et inutiles. Ce faisant, l'intimée a manqué à la bonne foi qui doit présider à la rupture du contrat (tout autant qu'à sa conclusion ou à son exécution), selon les termes de l'article 1375 C.c.Q. et elle a abusé du droit que lui confère l'article 2091 C.c.Q.

[163]       Le montant des dommages suggérés par mon collègue le juge Nuss me paraît toutefois élevé, compte tenu de la résilience dont l'appelant a fait montre à la suite de son licenciement, ce qui est tout à son honneur. Cette capacité à surmonter l'adversité ne justifie cependant pas que l'on ignore l'humiliation causée par la brutalité de la rupture. Dans les circonstances, et vu les barèmes jurisprudentiels pertinents (dont l'application reste toujours empreinte de subjectivité et même d'un certain arbitraire), j'accorderais 5 000 $ à l'appelant, montant qui me paraît suffisant pour réparer le préjudice moral établi en l'espèce, tout en évitant une surcompensation qui aurait des allures de dommages punitifs.

* * *

[164]       Je statuerais par ailleurs sur l'appel incident exactement comme le propose mon collègue.

* * *

[165]       En conséquence, je propose d'accueillir l'appel, avec dépens (excluant les frais relatifs aux cahiers d'autorités déposés hors délai), de rejeter l'appel incident, avec dépens, et de modifier le jugement de première instance afin d'y remplacer la conclusion figurant au paragraphe 96 par la conclusions suivante :

[96]      CONDEMNS Canadian Pacific Railway Company to pay Tony Aksich 219 094,50 $ with interest and the special indemnity provided by article 1019 C.C.Q.

 

 

 

MARIE-FRANCE BICH J.C.A.

 

 



[1]     Respondent correctly points out that this statement is erroneous because the proof establishes that the amount was determined on the basis only of appellant's continuous service from 1981 to 2001.

[2]     As long as it is not in competition with respondent.

[3]     Fringe benefits are payments to the medical and insurance plans and the like which the trial judge assessed as amounting to $ 2,088 annually.  Pension plan contributions were $ 2,707.16 annually.

[4]     After 15 months he would have acquired 2.5 points for a total of 75.2 points.

[5]     After 14 months he would have acquired 2.33 points which, when added to his 72.7 points at the time of the dismissal would have given him 75.03 points.

[6]     [1997] 3 S.C.R. 701 .

[7]     (1983), 45 C.B.R. (N.S.) 245 (Ont. S.C.).

[8]     [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1085 .

[9]     (1990), 49 B.C.L.R. (2d) 263 (C.A.).

[10]    2004 NBBR 103 (IIJCan).

[11]    C.S.M. 500-05-012252-910; 1993-03-18, motion to dismiss appeal granted, C.A.M., 500-09-000748-939, 1993-09-08; it is interesting to note that the Bernardin case was referred to by Chief Justice McLachlin in Wallace.  She dissented in part, but not on this point.

[12]    A similar letter, mutatis mutandis, with the same description of bridging dated June 8, 2001 was addressed to respondent's employee William McDuff.

[13]    At the annual rate of $ 127,978.18.

[14]    At the annual rate of $ 127,978.18.

[15]    This is referred to in respondent's documents as the Performance Incentive Plan (PIP).

[16]    According to Cathy Brown, appellant's director of total compensation in human resources, appellant would have received 12% (of salary) for the year 2002 if he had been in the employ of respondent and met his objective.

[17]    See para. [92] of judgment cited in the para. immediately above.

[18]    Rather than 9.5 months.

[19]    I have taken the amount of $ 76,989.12 and deducted the equivalent of 8% (article 28 de la Loi sur le ministère du Revenu) for a period of 7 months which is the mid‑point for 14 months of future payments.

[20]    See para. [15] above for a fuller description of appellant's contribution.

[21]    See also Encres d'imprimerie Schmidt ltée/Schmidt Printing Inks Ltd. c. Agence de ventes Bill Sayer inc./Bill Sayer Sales Agency Inc., J.E. 2004-849 (C.A.); Rienzo v. Washington Mills Electro Minerals Corp., (2005), 144 A.C.W.S. (3d) 86 (Ont. C.A.).

[22]    This is the terminology of the trial judge in para. [59] of the judgment which excludes an award on the basis of a high end notice period:

 

      [59] The court, taking into consideration the circumstances of the present case which may be distinguished from the ones taken into consideration in matters where the high end periods of notice of termination were granted by Québec Courts in recent years, concludes that Mr. Aksich is entitled to a 15 months notice of termination, to be calculated from July 12, 2001.

      (my underlining)

[23]    Presumably art. 2091 C.C.Q., Cathy Brown referred to it as the "common‑law severance".

[24]    Cited previously at para. [29], Hemens v. Sigvaris Corporation, [2004] R.J.Q. 2918 (C.A.) at 2929.

[25]    Text partially cited previously at para. [92].

[26]    See Wallace, supra note 6.

[27]     Dans Farber c. Cie Trust Royal, [1997] 1 R.C.S. 846 , à la p. 858, le juge Gonthier, au nom de la Cour, résume de façon très succincte l'état du droit sur la question :

«          Dans le cadre d'un contrat d'emploi à durée indéterminée, une partie peut procéder à la résiliation unilatérale du contrat.  Cette résiliation est qualifiée de congédiement, si elle origine de l'employeur, ou de démission, si elle origine de l'employé. Si l'employeur congédie l'employé sans cause, il doit donner à ce dernier un préavis raisonnable (délai‑congé) de la rupture prochaine du contrat ou une indemnité qui en tienne lieu. »

Pour sa part, Robert P. Gagnon écrit que:

« La partie à un contrat de travail à durée indéterminée qui veut y mettre fin peut le faire en tout temps à condition d'en donner à l'autre un préavis raisonnable et de ne pas abuser de cette faculté en décidant de l'utiliser ou dans la manière de le faire.

[…]

Pendant la durée du délai de congé, le contrat se poursuit entre les parties, avec les obligations qui s'y rattachent pour chacune d'elles. On reconnaît par ailleurs que la partie qui veut mettre fin au contrat peut interrompre la relation contractuelle de façon immédiate en versant à l'autre partie une indemnité qui tient lieu de délai de congé. Implicitement, l'article 2092 C.c.Q. confirme la légitimité de cette solution lorsque c'est l'employeur qui met fin au contrat, en considérant le droit du salarié d'obtenir une indemnité s'il ne reçoit pas un délai de congé suffisant, Dans ce cas, l'indemnité à laquelle le salarié a droit est calculée en tenant compte du salaire et des autres avantages ayant une valeur pécuniaire qu'il aurait reçus pendant la période du délai de congé. » (Robert P. Gagnon, Le droit du travail au Québec, 5e éd., Cowansville, Les Éditions Yvon Blais inc., 2003, au paragr. 169 (p. 124-125)).

[28]     Société hôtelière Canadien Pacifique c. Hoeckner, J.E. 88-805 , [1988] R.L. 482 (C.A.), aux p. 485-486.

[29]     On verra par exemple l'arrêt Musitechnic Services éducatifs inc. c. Ben-Hamadi, J.E. 2004-1577 (C.A.), où la Cour confirme un délai de congé de 18 mois nonobstant le fait qu'un délai de 10 à 12 mois lui eût normalement paru suffisant, le salarié congédié, âgé d'une quarantaine d'années, n'ayant que huit ans d'ancienneté chez l'employeur. Dans Sauvé  c. Banque Laurentienne, [1999] R.J.Q. 79 (C.A.), où la Cour, renversant le jugement de première instance qui avait conclu à l'existence d'un motif sérieux de congédiement, fixe à 18 mois le délai de congé auquel a droit le salarié, dans des circonstances qui, à certains égards, rappellent celles de l'espèce. Dans Encres d'imprimerie Schmidt ltée/Schmidt Printing Inks Ltd. c. Agence de ventes Bill Sayer inc./Bill Sayer Sales Agency Inc., J.E. 2004-849 (C.A.), la Cour confirme un délai de congé de 24 mois, qu'elle qualifie de « généreux ». Le salarié en cause, un vendeur particulièrement productif, avait 65 ans au moment du congédiement et il avait passé 36 ans au service de l'employeur. Dans Hemens c. Sigvaris Corp., [2004] R.J.Q. 2918 , la Cour confirme un délai de congé de 21 mois, « qui se situe certainement à la limite supérieure de l'échelle des délais de congé raisonnables » (paragr. 55). Il y a aussi, mais cela est carrément hors norme, le cas très particulier de l'affaire 149244 Canada Inc. c. Selick, [1994] R.J.Q. 2822 (C.A.), où la Cour confirme une indemnité équivalant à un préavis de trois ans. L'employeur en cause, toutefois, s'était engagé formellement à assurer la sécurité d'emploi, à long terme, de la salariée qu'il a finalement congédiée. Comme l'écrit le juge Fish, à la p. 2824 :

«I believe that the fate of the appeal depends instead on the intention of the parties to the contract. And the intention of the parties must in turn be appreciated bearing in mind that appellant purchased a family business on the specific condition that respondent, as a middle-aged member of the vendor's family, would be given extraordinary security of employment in the final years of her career.

An intended consequence of this condition, it seems to me, is that the respondent would be treated with truly exceptional generosity in the event that her position was abolished even for valid reasons.

Accordingly, the rules regarding adequate notice must be applied with a view to respecting the intention of the parties to confer a benefit upon respondent beyond that normally contemplated in a contract of employment.»

[30]     Le mot est emprunté à Standard Broadcasting Corp. c. Stewart, [1995] R.J.Q. 1751 (C.A.), à la p. 1758.

[31]     Le mot est cette fois emprunté à Musitechnic Services éducatifs inc. c. Ben-Hamadi, précité, note 3, au paragr. 74.

[32]     Voir le mémoire de l'appelant sur l'appel principal, à la p. 20, paragr. 51, et son mémoire sur l'appel incident, à la p. 3, paragr. 2.

[33]     Voir le mémoire de l'intimée, à la p. 4, lignes 4 à 8, et mémoire de l'appelant, à la p. 198 (lettre de fin d'emploi).

[34]     On consultera notamment l'ouvrage suivant, qui passe la jurisprudence applicable en revue : Georges AUDET, Robert BONHOMME et Clément GASCON, Le congédiement en droit québécois, 3e éd. (feuilles mobiles), vol. 1, aux p. 6-5 à 6-56 (paragr. 6.1.11 à 6.1.129).

[35]     Pièce D-14, mémoire de l’appelant, aux p. 243, 244 et 251.

[36]    [1994] R.J.Q. 1751 (C.A.).

[37]    Pour quelques exemples en ce sens, voir : Industries Flexhart ltée c. Baril, [2003] R.J.Q. 665 , notamment au paragr. 120; Shire Biochem inc. c. King, J.E. 2004-207 (C.A.), notamment aux paragr. 23 et 24; Orchestre métropolitain du Grand Montréal c. Rescigno, 2006 QCCA 6 , J.E. 2006-190 , notamment au paragr. 31 (encore qu'il s'agisse dans cette affaire de la rupture prématurée d'un contrat à durée déterminée).

[38]    Standard Broadcasting Corp. c. Stewart, précité, note 10, à la p. 1763.

[39]    Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada inc. c. Legros, [2005] R.J.Q. 383 (C.A.), aux paragr. 31 à 35.

AVIS :
Le lecteur doit s'assurer que les décisions consultées sont finales et sans appel; la consultation du plumitif s'avère une précaution utile.

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