Two recent Court of Appeal decisions, one from B.C. and one from
Alberta, have dealt a blow to individuals trying to get
compensation for stress.
Both cases dealt with restrictions under the Workers'
Compensation schemes which narrow the ability to claim statutory
Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) benefits for stress. In
Alberta, policy says that you can only get benefits if the injury
arose from "excessive or unusual" work-related events.
The B.C. statute has a similar limitation; the statute says that
you can only receive benefits for mental stress if it is an acute
reaction to a "sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising
out of and in the course of the worker's employment".
WCB legislation prevents an injured worker from suing his
employer for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, the
worker's employment. In the first case, the claimant tried to
get around this statutory restriction by suing for damages in the
courts, claiming that the bar against work-related claims did not
apply when he could not get WCB benefits. Can you get around it
that way? No. The claim was dismissed by the Alberta Court of
In the second, the claimant, an employee of a federal employer,
tried to argue that the restrictions on claims for stress did not
apply when the claim was under federal legislation. The federal
legislation gives provincial Boards the right to adjudicate claims
if the employee is employed in their province but it was not
totally clear whether the provincial restrictions on eligible
stress claims applied to these federal claimants. Are federal
employees unaffected by such provincial limitations on claims? The
answer: no, the same limitations apply. Provincial boards
adjudicate federal claims under provincial rules.
Whether you are a federal employee or whether you try to sue to
get around the restrictions, you can only get compensation for
stress if you meet the provincial criteria. The restrictions apply
to all. Workers can only receive stress compensation if they fit
within the prescribed type of stress claims.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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