Mental distress compensation awarded by Ontario tribunal

Standard restricting workers compensation for mental stress to that caused by sudden and unexpected events discriminatory
By Ronald Minken
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/12/2014

The limits on chronic mental stress claims in the Ontario Workplace Safety Insurance Act (WSIA) are contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has ruled. The tribunal refused to uphold the legislation’s limits on mental health claims, allowing workers with mental stress claims not based on sudden, traumatic and unexpected events to receive compensation under the WSIA.

The claimant worker was a nurse at a hospital who was mistreated by a physician for 12 years. The physician yelled at the nurse and made demeaning comments about her in front of both colleagues and patients. However, there was no physical mistreatment. Even though the nurse and co-workers complained about the physician’s behavior to management, no action was taken against the physician. Instead, management advised the nurse that her duties would be reduced, though her job title and classification would not change. The nurse claimed workplace stressors led to her diagnosis of adjustment disorder with mixed features of anxiety and depression.