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March 06 2020

FMRQ labour tribunal victory: Female resident doctors are indeed entitled to preventive removal

In its ruling handed down on February 24, 2020, Quebec’s labour tribunal (TAT, or Tribunal administratif du travail) confirmed that female resident doctors are entitled to preventive removal. In its judgment, the TAT stated the self-evident fact—which strangely appeared to have been unclear to the first-tier decision-makers of the CNESST, Quebec’s labour standards and workmen’s compensation board—that female resident doctors are workers within the meaning of the Act respecting occupational health and safety, and are therefore eligible for the “For A Safe Maternity Experience” program, which provides access to the benefits provided for in the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases. This ruling therefore confirms the rights of women who choose to have children during their residency. Although it is somewhat absurd that the FMRQ should have had to go to court on this issue to defend our members’ self-evident rights, we are proud to highlight this victory on the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day.

This debate began in December 2018 after a pregnant resident doctor, Cynthia Bissonnette, applied for preventive removal, since her workplace represented a risk for her own and her future child’s health. The CNESST denied her application at that time, indicating, quite illogically, that she was not a worker within the meaning of the Act.

Since this interpretation of the Act penalized female resident doctors, the Federation and Dr Bissonnette first requested an administrative review of the ruling, but this did not yield the desired result. We then contested these decisions again, before the TAT, which specializes in labour law. The tribunal corrected the situation, confirming our female resident doctors’ rights.

Thanks to former FMRQ member, Dr Bissonnette, for fighting this battle alongside the Federation!