The Supreme Court of Canada has
granted leave in an appeal about whether provincial or federal
legislation governs workplace compensation for federal workers.
If the decision of the Court of Appeal in Martin v. Alberta (Workers' Compensation Board), 2012
ABCA 248 is upheld, federal workers may find that their claims
for accident-related compensation will be determined by provincial
standards rather than solely the provisions of the federal
Government Employees Compensation Act.
Martin commenced a labour complaint against his employer, Parks
Canada. Subsequently, Parks Canada instructed Martin to release
data on his work computer so that Parks Canada could comply with
a request for information. Martin alleged this request
triggered a mental health condition that required him to take leave
and ultimately prompted a claim for compensation.
The Board determined that Martin was ineligible for
compensation because he did not meet the provincial WCB's
eligibility criteria under the province's Workers'
The chambers judge found that federal workers who
made claims in Alberta had a right to have a determination of their
eligibility for compensation determined only by reference to s.
4(1)(a)(i) of the federal Government Employees Compensation Act. The judge found
that the definition of "accident" in the Government
Employees Compensation Act had been incorporated into s. 4 (1)
(a) (i) of the Act, and this definition set the sole measure for
eligibility where federal employees were concerned.
The Court of Appeal overturned that decision, finding instead
that the provisions of both the provincial and federal acts
applied to federal employees, and that the federal
legislation either incorporated – or was at least
consistent with - the provincial legislation.
As a result, it was determined that employees must satisfy
the terms of the Board's policy with respect to their claims.
The language of the Federal Act should not be read as an imposition
upon the Alberta Board to apply different criteria to federal
workers. Instead, the Court of Appeal found at paragraph 31 that
there is "...no conflict between the GECA and the WCA as to
the criteria that Martin must satisfy to qualify for the claimed
The Supreme Court of Canada will have the opportunity to
determine whether both provincial and federal legislation applies
to federal employees. While the Court of Appeal in the
Martin case found that the federal statute and the
Board's policy were not incompatible for the purpose of the
present case, if there is an incompatibility, then the Federal
statute would prevail. Accordingly, this means that if the
Supreme Court finds that the Court of Appeal was correct,
federal workers would not be required to satisfy the same criteria
as workers subject to provincial legislation in the case of a
conflict between federal and provincial legislation.
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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