Quebec Court Rules That You Can’t Take Paid Leave to Mourn Your Pet

In most cases, Canadians are entitled to paid day off work if a spouse, child, parent or sibling dies (it should be more, but that’s not the point here).

As a high-profile story in Quebec has revealed, such a bereavement policy does not apply in the case of a passed-away pet.

Two years ago, Montreal resident Chantal Dumais’ day started by finding her two-and-a-half-year-old cat’s lifeless body outside her door. Understandably upset, she rang up her boss and asked if she could work from home that day. Her request was promptly denied.

Dumais quit her job over the incident, which was followed up in court. “I think it would be normal that when a tragedy arrives like the one I experienced … there should have been a paid day,” she said.

Yesterday, a Quebec labour tribunal determined the medical clinic Dumais worked for was well within its right to refuse their former employee’s request. “Nothing in the law allows a worker to be absent from work because of the death of a pet,” tribunal Judge Sylvain Allard wrote.

In fact, paid leave to mourn is exclusively reserved for next of kin relationships. According to the province’s labour standards act, the death of a grandparent, grandchild, son or daughter-in-law, or spouse’s immediate family member can only be remedied by a day off work without pay. Of course, there’s a strong counterargument for companies playing these situations by the book.

“If you look at the goodwill it will cost you to not give that versus the goodwill it generates to give it, practically speaking even if the law does not technically provide for it, you might suggest it makes sense to do,” said employment lawyer Jeremy Little in an interview with the National Post.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, there is a very specific term for this type of bereavement: pawternity leave.