WSIB au­dit re­veals high de­nial rate

Crit­ics say work­ers’ board is ‘ auto- deny­ing’ work- re­lated chronic men­tal stress claims THES­TAR. COM/ GTA

StarMetro Toronto - - TORONTO - Sara Mojtehedzadeh WORK AND WEALTH RE­PORTER

The pro­vin­cial work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion board has de­nied

94 per cent of chronic men­tal stress cases since new leg­is­la­tion ex­tended ben­e­fits cov­er­age to em­ploy­ees ex­pe­ri­enc­ing long-term trauma or ha­rass­ment on the job, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal Work­place Safety and In­sur­ance Board au­dit ob­tained by the Star.

Pre­vi­ously, work­ers could only seek com­pen­sa­tion for men­tal health in­juries caused by a trau­matic in­ci­dent, not those trig­gered by on­go­ing trauma in their work­place — which labour ad­vo­cates and le­gal ex­perts de­scribed in a

2016 om­buds­man com­plaint as un­con­sti­tu­tional and dis­crim­i­na­tory. Sub­se­quent le­gal changes mean work­ers can now file claims for workre­lated chronic stress is­sues.

But be­tween Jan­uary and May, just 10 of the 159 claims for work- re­lated chronic men­tal stress were ap­proved, the au­dit con­ducted by the WSIB shows. Maryth Yach­nin, a lawyer with the Toronto-based le­gal clinic In­dus­trial Ac­ci­dent Vic­tims of On­tario, said ad­vo­cates al­ready had con­cerns about ex­ist­ing bar­ri­ers to win­ning chronic MORE ON THE AU­DIT AT men­tal stress claims — but said she was “stunned” by the de­nial rate.

“I can­not imag­ine a world where they should be deny­ing up­wards of 90 per cent of the cases,” she said.

In a state­ment to the Star, WSIB spokesper­son Chris­tine Arnott said the board wanted “any­one deal­ing with workre­lated chronic men­tal stress (CMS) to get the help and sup­port they need.”

She said work­ers were enti- tled to com­pen­sa­tion if they met the board’s cri­te­ria, which in­cludes ev­i­dence of a “sub­stan­tial work- re­lated stres­sor” and abu­sive work­place be­hav­iour that rises to the level of work­place ha­rass­ment. (Work­ers are not en­ti­tled to chronic stress com­pen­sa­tion for prob­lems stem­ming from dis­ci­pline, de­mo­tions, trans­fers or ter­mi­na­tion.)

“We will con­tinue to mon­i­tor our new chronic men­tal stress pro­gram as we help sup­port men­tally healthy work­places across On­tario,” Arnott said.

Yach­nin said the board’s ap­proach to chronic men­tal stress cre­ates unique and un­rea­son­able bar­ri­ers for peo­ple with “ha­rass­ment-type in­juries.”

Work­ers fil­ing for chronic men­tal stress must prove their work­place was the “predominant cause” of their ill­ness.

FRAN­CIS VACHON/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Be­tween Jan­uary and May, just 10 of 159 claims for work-re­lated chronic men­tal stress were ap­proved by the WSIB, an in­ter­nal au­dit shows.

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