Le­gal chal­lenge tar­gets men­tal-stress work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claims

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JES­SICA SMITH CROSS

Hun­dreds of On­tar­i­ans who say they have suf­fered chronic men­tal stress due to their job may be awarded work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion if a new char­ter chal­lenge is suc­cess­ful.

It tar­gets On­tario’s work­place safety and in­surance law, which al­lows for com­pen­sa­tion to be given in men­tal ill­ness claims that stem from a sud­den or trau­matic event, but ex­cludes chronic men­tal stress that builds up over time, such as in cases of on­go­ing ha­rass­ment.

One of the lawyers for the ap­pli­cants, Chris­tine Davies, said the suit was filed last week on be­half of two groups that rep­re­sent in­jured work­ers and an Ot­tawa woman who says she was sex­u­ally ha­rassed when she worked for the city.

They are ask­ing the court to de­clare the ex­emp­tion of chronic men­tal stress un­con­sti­tu­tional and in­valid, Davies said, adding the Work­place Safety and In­surance Ap­peals Tri­bunal has al­ready found it is un­con­sti­tu­tional in three in­di­vid­ual claims, but does not have the power to change the law it­self.

The sit­u­a­tion is set to change Jan. 1, when a bill the On­tario gov­ern­ment passed this spring comes into ef­fect, amend­ing the sec­tion of the law tar­geted by the suit.

The change will al­low work­ers to get com­pen­sa­tion for chronic men­tal stress stem­ming from work as long as that stress doesn’t come from nor­mal changes in the work­place, such as be­ing laid off or be­ing dis­ci­plined.

“That leg­is­la­tion leaves a big gap of peo­ple whose claims arose be­fore Jan­uary 1, 2018,” Davies said.

The law­suit is meant to af­fect ap­prox­i­mately 170 chronic men­tal-stress cases cur­rently work­ing their way through the work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem and any new cases that might arise this year, she said. It ar­gues com­pen­sa­tion should not be de­nied on the ba­sis of the cur­rent law be­fore the new law comes into ef­fect.

One of the ap­pli­cants in the law­suit, Margery War­dle, has one of the ex­ist­ing work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claims. It is in the ap­peals stage, more than a decade af­ter she first filed for com­pen­sa­tion.

In the no­tice of ap­pli­ca­tion filed with the court, War­dle said she suf­fered chronic men­tal stress as a re­sult of sex­u­al­ized pho­tos posted at work, as well as be­ing shunned by co-work­ers and an in­ci­dent in which she was swarmed by peo­ple who shouted ob­scen­i­ties at her.

Davies said War­dle is re­quired to ar­gue — as oth­ers have be­fore — that the ex­emp­tion for chronic men­tal stress is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“What we’re try­ing to do is get the court to sim­ply de­clare those pro­vi­sions to be in­valid, so that no­body else has to do that, no­body else has to ap­peal for years and years to get a re­sult they should have been en­ti­tled to at the start,” said Davies.

None of the claims have been proven in court. The re­spon­dents — the gov­ern­ment of On­tario as well as the Work­place Safety and In­surance Board and ap­peals tri­bunal — were served this week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.