Repeated verbal or psychological harassment of an employee by
his coworkers resulting in injury is properly brought as a
workers' compensation claim, and therefore should not be
brought as a civil suit, Master Laycock of the Alberta Court of
Queen's Bench ruled earlier this month.
Ashraf v. S.N.C. Lavalin ATP Inc., the plaintiff alleged that
his coworkers repeatedly marginalized and undermined him, and that
his employer did nothing to stop the systemic harassment. The
plaintiff alleged that as a result of this conduct he suffered
mental anguish that caused or exacerbated certain illnesses or
injuries with severe pain and suffering, resulting in his inability
to maintain employment. The plaintiff did not plead constructive
dismissal, but rather claimed compensation for lost income and
benefits, and for pain and suffering. The defendant applied for an
order to strike the claim, arguing that the court had no
jurisdiction to hear the matter on the basis of the Alberta
Workers' Compensation Act.
Master Laycock found that the civil action was barred by section
21 of the Act because the plaintiff had a claim for
workers' compensation. In reaching this conclusion, Master
Laycock noted that an "accident" under the Act
includes the willful act of someone who is not the person
suffering the accident; the Alberta legislation does not expressly
exclude psychological stress as a compensable injury, nor the
intentional or malicious infliction thereof; and that past
jurisprudence demonstrates that workers' compensation claims
can arise from continuing conduct and not solely isolated
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