Home Mental Health B.C. woman granted workers’ compensation benefits from WorkSafeBC for PTSD from alleged harassment by supervisor

B.C. woman granted workers’ compensation benefits from WorkSafeBC for PTSD from alleged harassment by supervisor

by HR Law Canada

A British Columbia worker’s long-standing battle for compensation due to a mental disorder, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), has been resolved.

The case, marked by complexities surrounding mental health in the workplace, reached a turning point with a ruling by the British Columbia Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) in favour of the worker.

The worker, who stopped working on June 20, 2019, due to alleged mental harassment, initially had her compensation claim denied by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WorkSafeBC) on Sept. 5, 2019. This decision was upheld by the Board’s Review Division (RD) in April 2020, noting the absence of a formal diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist and the non-traumatic nature of the workplace events as defined by the Workers Compensation Act.

The worker’s appeal to the WCAT brought forth several unique elements. She identified as an Indigenous person, leading to specialized support from a WCAT Navigator knowledgeable about Indigenous experiences with government and justice systems. The hearing process, initially started in February 2021, underwent a change in the decision-maker and eventually led to a teleconference in March 2023, where the need for a formal diagnosis was emphasized.

In response, the worker sought evaluation from a psychologist listed by WCAT. The psychologist’s October 2023 report confirmed the worker’s PTSD, attributing it to workplace abuse by the worker’s supervisor. Although the report faced scrutiny over unverified information and possible subjectivity, it played a crucial role in establishing the mental disorder diagnosis.

The Tribunal’s thorough analysis weighed the evidence and arguments, considering the criteria set by the Workers Compensation Act and Board policy. The worker’s experiences, including interactions with EH and the broader workplace context, were deemed significant work-related stressors. The Tribunal found that these stressors, despite falling under routine management decisions, were communicated in an abusive and threatening manner, exempting them from the Act’s exclusion clause.

Ultimately, the Tribunal ruled in favor of the worker, overturning the RD’s decision and recognizing her right to compensation for PTSD as of June 2019.

For more information, see A2001049 (Re), 2023 CanLII 120387 (BC WCAT)

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