WSIB audit reveals high denial rate
Critics say workers’ board is ‘ auto- denying’ work- related chronic mental stress claims THESTAR. COM/ GTA
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.
Between January and May, just 10 of 159 claims for work-related chronic mental stress were approved by the WSIB, an internal audit shows.