Retail worker’s appeal for extended mental disorder benefits rejected by tribunal after she’s cleared to return to full-time work

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A retail worker in British Columbia has been denied extended wage-loss benefits after her mental disorder claim was denied by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT).

The worker, employed as a department lead/service counter representative, initially filed a claim in July 2020 for mental disorder, stating she experienced bullying and sexual harassment at work at the hands of her supervisor.

A report from a psychologist noted that: “Although the worker had some ongoing residual psychological symptoms, her symptoms would likely return to pre-incident levels once the managerial issues in the workplace were resolved. The worker had reported that her supervisor had been suspended.”

WorkSafeBC accepted her claim for Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood and provided health care benefits and, later, temporary total disability benefits.

However, on July 30, 2021, WorkSafeBC concluded that the worker’s Adjustment Disorder had resolved as of Feb. 6, 2021, upon her return to full-time work. Consequently, she was deemed ineligible for further benefits from Long Term Disability Services or Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

A doctor’s report from January 2021 indicated that she was medically capable of returning to work on a full-time basis.

Challenging this decision, the worker appealed to WCAT. She contended her entitlement to wage-loss benefits should extend beyond Feb. 6, 2021, including after her termination in May 2021. The WCAT, after a detailed evaluation of the worker’s appeal through written submissions, focused on whether she was entitled to wage-loss benefits after Feb. 6, 2021.

The employer, not responding to WCAT’s invitation to participate, left the Tribunal to deliberate based on the available evidence. The worker’s representative argued that despite returning to full hours, the worker was on a modified graduated return-to-work plan under different supervision and had not resumed her regular job duties.

They argued that the worker’s ongoing counselling treatments supported the claim that her condition remained temporarily disabling.

However, the Tribunal found no sufficient basis to extend the wage-loss benefits. It noted that the worker was not incurring an earnings loss as of Feb. 7, 2021, and her symptoms did not disable her from full-time work. Additionally, multiple medical reports indicated the worker was capable of full-time work without restrictions.

“As stipulated in the Board’s policies as cited above, a worker is not entitled to temporary wage-loss benefits for a compensable condition unless they are suffering an actual or potential loss of wages,” it said.

The decision confirmed the Review Division’s earlier ruling, denying the worker’s appeal for wage-loss benefits post-Feb. 6, 2021. While the case of the worker’s entitlement to Long Term Disability Services and Vocational Rehabilitation Services has been referred back to the Board for further investigation, the Tribunal’s jurisdiction was limited to the issue of wage-loss benefits.

For more information, see A2200724 (Re), 2023 CanLII 129484 (BC WCAT).

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