Canada: La Fin D'une Impasse? Le Tribunal Administratif Du Travail Éclaircit L'application D'une Politique De La CNESST

Nous désirons porter à votre attention la décision d'importance rendue le 12 juillet 2016 par la juge administrative Claire Burdett du Tribunal administratif du travail, division de la santé et de la sécurité (le « TAT »).

Cette décision vient clarifier les orientations de la Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (la « CNESST ») adoptées en 2015, qui prévoient qu'en cas de lésion professionnelle consolidée sans atteinte permanente et sans limitation fonctionnelle, les indemnités de remplacement du revenu (les « IRR ») s'éteignent à la date de la décision rendue par la CNESST reconnaissant la capacité du travailleur, et non en date de la consolidation médicale retenue au dossier.

Plus précisément, les orientations adoptées en avril 2015 par la CNESST prévoient que celle-ci peut récupérer les IRR versés au travailleur et les prestations d'assistance médicale (les « PAM ») en cas de conciliation où les parties faisaient rétroagir la date de capacité du travailleur à une date antérieure à celle préalablement retenue par la CNESST. L'IRR et les PAM reçues sans droit pouvaient dès lors être réclamées au travailleur ou dans bien des cas à l'employeur, étant donné qu'il se substituait au travailleur dans le cadre de tout accord. De plus, le dossier de l'employeur restait imputé des montants versés au travailleur. Ainsi, les parties ont été plongées dans un certain immobilisme, ces dernières n'osant plus conclure de transactions pouvant s'avérer très coûteuse en cas d'une réclamation possible de la part de la CNESST.

La juge Burdett estime que la Loi sur les accidents du travail et les maladies professionnelles (la « Loi ») n'assujettit pas la fin des versements des IRR et du droit aux PAM à la notification au travailleur de la décision de la CNESST de capacité, mais bien au moment où le travailleur redevient effectivement capable. Les IRR reçues et les PAM accordées au travailleur entre ce moment et la décision de capacité étant reçue de bonne foi, la juge estime que les orientations de la CNESST font fausse route en suggérant que la CNESST puisse récupérer du travailleur les IRR et les PAM versées en trop dans ce cas précis. Elle retient donc qu'il est possible de rétroagir la date de capacité.

Cette décision est une décision de grande importance pour les employeurs, puisque depuis l'adoption des nouvelles orientations de la CNESST en avril 2015, il devenait hasardeux d'entreprendre tout processus de conciliation étant donné que les travailleurs ou les employeurs, lorsqu'ils étaient substitués aux travailleurs, pouvaient devoir rembourser toute somme découlant d'un accord avec rétroaction de la date de capacité. Dans ces circonstances, plusieurs dossiers ont dû être entendus au TAT alors qu'ils auraient pu faire l'objet d'accords légitimes entre le travailleur et l'employeur, quant à la rétroactivité de la date de capacité.

Le fait que le TAT ne s'estime pas lié par les politiques et orientations internes de la CNESST n'est pas nouveau, mais dans ce cas précis, la décision rétablit la possibilité d'avoir recours à la conciliation dans certains dossiers qui s'y prêtent, et ce, sans que le travailleur ou l'employeur ne craigne de devoir rembourser à la CNESST les montants versés en trop.

Il va sans dire que cette décision est un pas de plus vers une interprétation souple, nuancée et respectueuse de la Loi, qui favorisera la conciliation entre les parties et une juste imputation des sommes à l'employeur, sans égard aux frais qui découlent du délai de traitement administratif des décisions de capacité, dans le cours normal de l'évolution du dossier.

La décision ayant été rendue tout récemment, il ne serait pas surprenant que la CNESST la porte en révision. Cependant, la décision de la juge Burdett est bien appuyée et sa démarche est claire et éloquente. En ce sens, nous entrevoyons que cette décision devrait être maintenue par tout palier décisionnel supérieur.

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