In Martin v. Alberta (Workers' Compensation Board),
2014 SCC 25, released on March 28, 2014, the
SCC found Alberta's WCB policy on chronic onset stress claims
to be reasonable. The policy requires work-related events to be
excessive or unusual in comparison with the normal pressures and
tensions experienced by the average worker in a similar occupation
before the WCB will accept a claim for chronic onset stress: see WCB Policy 03-01 Part II. In this case,
the Parks Canada employee claimed chronic onset stress after
receiving a letter from his employer that requested compliance with
a specific workplace matter and cautioned the potential of
disciplinary action for non-compliance.
The SCC found that this claim was reasonably adjudicated by
Alberta's WCB, and that when adjudicating claims under the
Government Employees Compensation Act (GECA), provincial
boards and authorities are required to apply their own provincial
laws and policies, except where they directly conflict with the
GECA. Compensation for Government of Canada employees is determined
at the same rate and conditions – and by the same board,
officers or authorities – as under provincial law.
Implications for Alberta Employers
This case is welcome news for employers. The Alberta WCB's
policy of requiring employees who seek relief for chronic onset
stress to have been subjected to excessive or unusual work-related
events is firmly entrenched. Alberta employers can also quite
comfortably impose reasonable adverse employment conditions without
fear that the action itself will support a compensable claim for
psychological injury under Alberta's workers' compensation
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.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
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.
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