On December 5, the Minister responsible for the Charter of the French language and Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, Mme Diane De Courcy, tabled a bill which has the stated purpose of reinforcing the use of French in public places. This bill contains several amendments likely to have an impact on Quebec employers. We nevertheless would like to point out that Bill N° 14 will be referred for discussions before a parliamentary commission and is likely to be amended prior to adoption, if and when that occurs. 

Given that, here are some of the main features of this bill which will have an impact on the area of labour law.

New provisions in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

The bill contains several new provisions to be incorporated into the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which expressly entrench the importance of French and the right to work in French within Quebec. In particular, under the heading of fundamental rights and freedoms, Article 3.1 will be added, which provides that Every person has a right to live and work in French in Québec to the extent provided for in the Charter of the French language”.

New provisions in the Charter of the French language

Under the amended and new provisions incorporated into the Charter of the French Language (“C.F.L.”), employers will now be required by law to :

  • sign employment agreements in French, unless the parties expressly agree to draft the agreement in another language;
  • make available in French the staff policies and procedures and any other document setting forth workers’ rights and obligations;
  • where the business has 10 or more employees, post a sign in a conspicuous location which sets forth the principal rights of employees concerning the use of French in the workplace;
  • in addition to collective agreements, which already have to be filed in the official language pursuant to Article 43 C.F.L., the bill expressly sets forth the same requirement for « any other group agreement relating to conditions of employment, conditions of remuneration or compensation for services and negotiated by an association or group that is recognized under an Act» other than the Labour Code;
  • before requiring knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than French, thoroughly evaluate the actual linguistic requirements of the position and thereafter conduct periodic reassessments of such requirements;
  • take reasonable means to prevent or ensure prevention of any vexatious behaviour, discrimination or harassment against a person based on the person having a poor understanding of a language other than French, or who demands the right to speak French or requires the respect of a right arising out of the C.F.L.
  • for businesses, take reasonable means to ensure the presence of employees who can offer a quality service in French to consumers.

Under Bill N° 14, a non-union employee who believes he or she is the victim of someone acting in violation of any provision of the C.F.L. in relation to the use of French will now be able to file a complaint with the Commission des normes du travail pursuant to Section 123 of the Act respecting Labour Standards. In such a case, the Commission des normes du travail may represent the employee before the Commission des relations du travail.

With respect to the heading of the C.F.L. dealing with francisation of businesses, a new category of enterprises, those who employ between 26 and 49 employees, would be created, and enterprises falling within this category would be required to make sure that the normal and everyday language of the workplace is French.