With workplace bullying and harassment on the rise in British
Columbia, and high profile harassment law suits very much in the
news, the BC government introduced further amendments to Bill 14
– Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011 on May 2, 2012
to address workplace bullying. These amendments add to the
significant changes already proposed in Bill 14, which all
employers should be aware of.
a) Background to Bill 14
In November 2011, the government tabled Bill 14 to amend the
Workers Compensation Act. The main feature of Bill 14 was that it
allowed workers suffering from cumulative work-related stress to
apply for, and be granted, benefits. Previously, workers were only
entitled to benefits for stress related illness if the stress arose
from sudden and traumatic events.
b) New Amendments to Deal with Bullying
With the May 2, 2012 amendments to Bill 14, the definition of
"violence" in the Workers Compensation Act will be
expanded to include bullying, and employers will be required to
implement formal plans to deal with bullying. The term "mental
stress" in section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act will be
changed to "mental disorder" and a mental disorder would
now be compensable if the disorder is caused by a significant
workplace stressor, which includes bullying or harassment. To be
eligible to be compensated for a disorder, a diagnosis is required
from a psychiatrist or a psychologist, not simply a physician.
Furthermore, the diagnosis must fall within the most recent
American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders. To address the all too common
"stress claim" that follows a discipline event, the
amendments to Bill 14 clearly exclude from coverage any disorder
that arises from discipline, termination of employment, or a change
in working conditions.
WorkSafeBC has been tasked with developing a policy on bullying
and harassment, as well as a "tool kit" for both
employers and employees. When that policy and tool kit are
published, we will include them in future newsletters.
When the legislation is implemented, BC will join the ranks of
Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Quebec, which have addressed
bullying and harassment either through changes to health and safety
legislation or employment standards legislation. Federal workers in
Canada have been protected from workplace bullying since 2008
through amendments to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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