In a recent decision, the British Columbia Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) has granted a significant relief of costs to an employer in a mental disorder claim case.
The decision, made by Vice Chair Andrew Waldichuk, comes after a lengthy review process involving the Workers’ Compensation Board (WorkSafeBC) and the Board’s Review Division.
The case dates back to 2018 when a worker filed a claim for temporary disability under a mental disorder relating to work events that occurred between 2013 and January 2018.
The initial decision by a case manager at WorkSafeBC granted the employer 50 percent relief of costs. However, the employer requested a review of the decision, which was later confirmed by the Review Division.
Unsatisfied with the relief granted, the employer appealed the review officer’s decision to the WCAT, seeking 75 percent relief of costs. The worker, representing themselves, participated in the appeal process.
Dispute over severity of events
During the appeal, it was revealed that the employer’s main point of contention was the severity of the events that led to the worker’s 2018 claim. The employer disagreed with the review officer’s finding that the events were of major severity and argued that they were of moderate severity instead.
The WCAT considered the evidence presented, including a previous WCAT decision (A1902769) that outlined several workplace stressors experienced by the worker.
These stressors included incidents of bullying, harassment, false accusations, and abuse of managerial authority by the worker’s supervisor. The WCAT also took into account the worker’s pre-existing psychological condition of major medical significance.
Moderate versus major
After careful evaluation, Vice Chair Waldichuk concluded that the events leading to the worker’s 2018 claim should be categorized as moderate severity rather than major severity.
As a result, the WCAT granted the employer’s appeal and increased the relief of costs to 75 percent, effective from the ten-week point of temporary disability.
The decision is based on section 240(1)(d) of the Workers Compensation Act and policy item #114.40 of the Rehabilitation Services and Claims Manual, Volume II. The WCAT’s jurisdiction, as outlined in the Act, allows them to consider all questions of fact and law in an appeal, applying the applicable policy set by the Board’s board of directors.
The ruling demonstrates the complexity of evaluating the severity of events in mental disorder claims. The WCAT emphasized that determining the severity of mental health-related incidents can be challenging compared to physical injuries.
However, based on the evidence and the available information, Vice Chair Waldichuk determined that the events in this case were more appropriately categorized as moderate severity.
The decision will provide significant relief to the employer, who will now be responsible for 75 percent of the costs associated with the worker’s temporary disability under the 2018 claim. The ruling also highlights the importance of considering both the pre-existing condition of the worker and the severity of the events when evaluating cost relief in such cases.
It is worth noting that no request for reimbursement of appeal expenses was made, and therefore no order was given in that regard.
For more information see A2300097 (Re), 2023 CanLII 60503 (BC WCAT)