Air Canada employee who fell on stairs in her home eligible for worker’s compensation: Judge

A call centre employee who hurt herself going down the stairs while working from home suffered a workplace injury, a Quebec labour judge has ruled

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A Quebec labour judge has ruled that an Air Canada call centre employee who hurt herself going down a staircase while working from home suffered a workplace injury and merited worker’s compensation.


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The ruling, handed down by Quebec administrative Judge Philippe Bouvier earlier this month, seems to be the first in the province to confirm that an injury that occurs during work hours in the home of an employee teleworking due to COVID-19 is eligible for worker’s compensation, according to experts.

“This is a very interesting ruling and will certainly have an impact on businesses” in Quebec, namely because it will further define the limits of the workplace and employers’ responsibilities, said Arnaud Rainfray, a business lawyer at O’Brien Avocats in Quebec City.

Because the case was heard in the provincial labour tribunal, it only has potential legal ramifications in Quebec. It also only has repercussions on workers’ compensation eligibility, and not on Quebec employers’ legal obligations regarding health and safety at work.


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In September 2020, Alexandria Gentile-Patti, an Air Canada customer service agent, was working her regular shift from her home office on the second floor when she  disconnected from her computer for her lunch break.

But while heading to her kitchen on the main floor, she tripped on her staircase and stumbled down before landing on her left side, injuring herself.

While she argued that she injured herself while exiting her workplace and thus was eligible for workers’ compensation (which pays 90 per cent of an employee’s salary for up to two years in Quebec), Air Canada disagreed.


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“Air Canada argues that this fall on the stairs did not occur during work, since Ms. Gentile-Patti was no longer in her professional sphere, but rather in her personal sphere, because the fall occurs as she heads out to eat,” the judge summarizes in his ruling.

“Air Canada claims there is no connection between this activity and work.”

Furthermore, Air Canada argued in court that because Gentile-Patti was no longer in her home office at the time of the accident, there was a “presumption of privacy” and thus no effective control from the employer.

In other words, because it didn’t occur in her office, Air Canada argued it couldn’t be responsible for the safety of the personal space.

The judge disagreed, saying that the employee’s injury fit the definition of a “sudden and unexpected event that occurred during work.”


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He noted that many recognized and compensated work accidents in Quebec have occurred in places that employers have no control over, such as hotel rooms, convention halls and parking lots managed by third parties.

He also determined that the only reason Gentile-Patti was taking the staircase from her office to get lunch at the time was due to fact she was bound to a work schedule imposed by Air Canada.

Air Canada argues that this fall on the stairs did not occur during work, since Ms. Gentile-Patti was no longer in her professional sphere

Basically, had she not been working a 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift with mandatory and specified health and lunch breaks, she might not have eaten when she did or even been on the second floor and needed to head downstairs to get lunch. Thus, the injury occurred during work hours at the workplace, Bouvier concluded.

“There is temporal proximity, even concomitance, between the disconnection with the employer and the fall,” the judge wrote.


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“Ms. Gentile-Patti’s fall, which occurred moments after disconnecting from her workstation to go to dinner, is an unforeseen and sudden event that occurs during work. She therefore suffered an occupational injury,” he concluded.

Gentile-Patti’s union representative who defended her throughout the legal proceedings says she is happy with the ruling and that she has since made a fully recovery and is back at work.

“What is unclear in the context of teleworking is the frontier between what is one’s private life within my home versus what falls under work at home,” said Daniel Cloutier, a national representative at Unifor.

“This ruling clarifies that even within your home, if you experience an injury during your transit to and from your workplace, then it is considered like you were at your formal workplace.”

Cloutier says the case is likely to impact a host of similar files and grievances.

“In terms of compensation, when receiving 90 per cent of your net salary … injured employees see very little difference on their paycheques while they’re on workers’ compensation,” he explained.

“That’s compared to 55 per cent, taxable, for those who have to go on employment insurance in Quebec” if they’re not found eligible for worker’s compensation, he added.

Air Canada did not respond to a request for comment by deadline Monday.

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