An Ontario court has upheld a ruling by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT), granting loss of earnings benefits to a Toronto firefighter who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from his duties.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court deemed the WSAT’s decisions reasonable, taking into account various factors, including competing lines of authority and the legislative intent to compensate injured workers.
It was in response to a request for judicial review of the decision by the City of Toronto, which argued the loss of earnings was a result of the former firefighter’s termination — not the PTSD diagnosis.
Mr. B., employed by the City of Toronto as a firefighter, was terminated for cause on Nov. 14, 2017. In January 2018, he filed a claim with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), citing PTSD resulting from his duties as a firefighter.
The Board approved his claim for health benefits but denied his future loss of earnings, stating that the loss was a result of termination rather than the PTSD diagnosis.
Appeals and standard of review
An Appeals Resolution Officer (ARO) reviewed the case and rejected medical evidence linking the PTSD to the conduct leading to Mr. B’s termination. The ARO upheld the Board’s decision to deny future loss of earnings benefits.
Mr. B appealed to the WSIAT, which allowed his appeal — awarding future loss of earnings — and it maintained its decision upon reconsideration.
The City of Toronto argued that the Tribunal’s decisions to award loss of earnings were unreasonable and sought their overturning. The standard of review agreed upon by the parties is reasonableness, requiring the court to respect the administrative decision makers’ role. The court must assess the decisions based on justification, intelligibility, and transparency.
Issues on judicial review
The City of Toronto raised three issues forming the basis for its submission:
a. Whether the Tribunal unreasonably rejected the “employer intention” line of cases in interpreting s. 43(1) of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA).
b. Alternatively, if the Tribunal’s choice to follow the “worker conduct” line of cases was reasonable, whether it misapplied this analytic approach.
c. Whether the Tribunal misapprehended or ignored relevant medical evidence in reaching its decision to grant benefits to Mr. Beebeejaun.
Analysis of the Issues
a. Did the Tribunal unreasonably reject the “employer intention” line of cases?
The Tribunal acknowledged the “employer intention” and “worker conduct” approaches taken in prior decisions involving the termination of injured workers.
The City argued that the Tribunal should have followed the “employer intention” line of cases and denied benefits based on the evidence.
However, the Tribunal preferred the “worker conduct” approach, focusing on whether the compensable injury significantly contributed to the worker’s post-termination wage loss.
b. Did the Tribunal misapply the “worker conduct” approach?
The Tribunal’s choice to follow the “worker conduct” line of cases was reasonable, according to the analysis provided.
This approach examines the worker’s conduct before termination and considers whether the loss of wages resulted from the worker’s own unreasonable actions.
The Tribunal found this approach to align with the statutory intention of compensating employees for wage loss resulting from a workplace injury.
c. Did the Tribunal ignore relevant medical evidence?
The City argued that the Tribunal ignored medical evidence linking Mr. B’s PTSD to the conduct leading to termination.
However, the Tribunal’s decisions demonstrate an awareness of the competing lines of authority and justify the choice to follow the prevailing “worker conduct” cases.
The reasoning provided in the decisions supports the conclusion that the approach chosen by the Tribunal aligns with the purposes of the Act and prevents unfairness to injured employees.
Mr. B was awarded benefits in this case because he successfully demonstrated that his PTSD was a result of his work as a firefighter. The court acknowledged that his condition was directly linked to his experiences and exposure to traumatic events while performing his duties.
By establishing the causal connection between his work and the development of PTSD, Mr. B met the necessary criteria to be eligible for compensation and benefits. The court recognized the significance of his mental health condition as a valid workplace injury, affirming the importance of providing support and compensation for workers facing similar circumstances.
The court dismissed the City of Toronto’s application for judicial review. It also awarded costs to Mr. B in the amount of $7,500.
For more information, see City of Toronto v WSIAT and Beebeejaun, 2023 ONSC 3875 (CanLII)