Canada: Should I Stay Or Should I Go? BC Supreme Court Stays Wrongful Dismissal Proceeding

Last Updated: January 19 2017
Article by Joan Young, Natalie Cuthill and Tiffany Misri, Articled Student

The British Columbia Supreme Court recently ordered an interim stay of proceedings pending a determination by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (“WCAT”) on whether the plaintiff’s claims, in whole or in part, were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Workers Compensation Act (“Act”).1

Background

In Garritty v Richmond Kinsmen Home Support Society (“Garritty”)2 the plaintiff claimed damages for wrongful dismissal and aggravated damages for mental distress.  The plaintiff claimed it was a fundamental term of her employment that she be treated with dignity and respect and that the defendant not create or allow to exist a working environment that was hostile to her, and that the defendant breached those fundamental terms by condoning harassment in the workplace and creating a hostile work environment.

The allegations by the plaintiff of workplace harassment and associated damages opened up the door for the defendant employer to plead in its Response to Civil Claim that the plaintiff was a “worker” and the defendant was an “employer” as defined by the Act. The impact of this was that potentially all claims made by the plaintiff for damages arising out of any personal injuries allegedly suffered in and out of the course of her employment with the defendant as a result of any breach of duty of care, harassment or any other act or omission by the defendant, would fall within the workplace bullying and harassment provisions of the Act. If correct, then much if not most of the plaintiff’s civil claims would be statute barred and the BC Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter. 

The defendant filed an application for a determination by WCAT of this jurisdictional issue.  The plaintiff took the position that discoveries and other pre-trial evidentiary steps should proceed in the face of the WCAT application.  The defendant sought an interim stay of the civil proceedings to prevent the parties incurring needless expense on pre-trial procedures pending a final determination by WCAT.

Decision

The defendant was successful in demonstrating that there were conceivable grounds on which the plaintiff’s claim, at least in part, could fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Act.

Under section 254, the Act gives WCAT exclusive jurisdiction to determine all questions of fact and law required to be determined under section 257, including, where a civil action has been commenced, the question of whether the action is statute barred.3  This means that once an application for a section 257 determination is commenced, WCAT will make a determination whether or not the court chooses to grant a stay.

The court cited Hazell v Toews which held that the issue of whether a claim falls within the Act may be raised at any stage of the proceedings and if that is done on any conceivable grounds, the proper course is to stay the action and refer the matter to WCAT for determination.4  Hazell also provides that a stay should be entered where court’s time and resources might be wasted if the action were to proceed without a resolution of the jurisdictional issue.5 

In order for WCAT to make a determination under section 257, the civil action must be based on a disability caused by occupational disease, a personal injury, or death.6  The court concluded it was conceivable that WCAT might determine the plaintiff’s action involved a claim for an alleged mental stress injury arising out of and in the course of her employment as a “worker” within the meaning of the Act, and was, at least in part, an action based on personal injury.

The court found that there would be minimal inconvenience to the plaintiff if the stay was granted, but that the defendant would likely incur expenses that may, at least in part, be wasted in the event WCAT determines the plaintiff’s claim, or some part of it, falls within WCAT’s exclusive jurisdiction. Furthermore, the court concluded that the harm or prejudice to the defendant would not be fully ameliorated by an award of costs.  Accordingly, the court concluded that there should be a stay of the civil action pending WCAT’s section 257 determination.

Take Away

Workplace conduct which results in injuries, including mental health injuries, to an employee can be covered by workers compensation legislation in certain cases.  When faced with a wrongful dismissal action, employers should consider whether all or part of the employee’s claim falls outside of the court’s jurisdiction and instead within the exclusive jurisdiction the Workers’ Compensation Act, the Employment Standards Act, or the Human Rights Code.  If an employer determines that the employee’s claim may be within the jurisdiction of WCAT, to be successful in applying for a stay of proceedings, the employer must demonstrate there are conceivable grounds on which the plaintiff’s claim, at least in part, could fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Workers’ Compensation Act and that the employer would be prejudiced if the stay is not granted.  A stay of proceedings may not prevent a trial on all issues in dispute, but it may serve to eliminate unnecessary time and expense defending the civil claim and possibly eliminate it completely.

Footnotes

1 Workers Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c 492 (the “Act”).

2 Garritty v Richmond Kinsmen Home Support Society, 2016 BCSC 2204.

3 Act at section 254.

4 Hazell v Toews, [1997] BCJ No 2495 (BCSC).

5 Ibid.

6 Act at section 257.

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2017

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Joan Young
Natalie Cuthill
Tiffany Misri, Articled Student
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions