Modern Cleaning Concept Inc. v. Comité paritaire de l'entretien d'édifices publics de la région de Québec
(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)
(Sealing order) (Certain information not available to the public)
Labour relations - Labour relations — Concepts of employee and independent contractor within meaning of Act respecting collective agreement decrees — Actual status of franchisee in contractual relationship with franchisor — Whether fact that franchisor assumes certain risks in relation to franchisee’s customers turns franchisee into employee — Whether application of contract standards established by franchisor to support and protect its brand turns franchisee into employee — Whether Court of Appeal erred in not showing appropriate deference to trial judge’s findings of fact and in reviewing them in absence of palpable and overriding error — Act respecting collective agreement decrees, CQLR, c. D-2, ss. 1(g) and (j), 11, 12 and 48 — Decree respecting building service employees in the Québec region, CQLR, c. D-2, r. 16, s. 2.03(2).
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The appellant Modern Cleaning Concept Inc. (Modern) is a franchisor with a network of cleaning franchises serving commercial, industrial and institutional customers in small and medium-sized premises in the Québec region. The network has about 450 franchisees. One of them was Francis Bourque, an independent contractor who had been operating his own cleaning business for several years as a sideline to his full-time job when he signed the franchise agreement in 2014. As a result of signing that agreement, Mr. Bourque was assigned cleaning contracts for branches of the National Bank of Canada and outlets of the Société des alcools du Québec. After about five months working as a franchisee, Mr. Bourque decided to terminate the franchise agreement and continue his cleaning activities through his personal business. He allegedly made that decision after realizing that he was unable to generate enough income to cover his expenses and that he had to count on the help of his spouse, Jocelyne Fortin, to complete the work. Following the resiliation of the franchise agreement, the respondent Comité paritaire de l’entretien d’édifices publics de la région de Québec brought an action in the Court of Québec claiming wages from the appellant on the ground that Mr. Bourque and his spouse, Ms. Fortin, had been employees and not independent contractors within the meaning of the Act respecting collective agreement decrees, CQLR, c. D-2, and the Decree respecting building service employees in the Québec region, CQLR, c. D-2, r. 16.
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