An Alberta worker’s appeal for compensation due to a chronic psychological injury stemming from workplace harassment and bullying has been referred back to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) for additional investigation and re-adjudication, as decided by the Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers’ Compensation.
The worker initially filed a claim with the WCB in the fall of 2020 for a psychological injury allegedly caused by negative interactions with her foreman and co-workers, dating back to June 3, 2019.
While a separate claim for a specific incident on Oct. 26, 2020, was accepted, the broader claim for chronic psychological injury was denied by a WCB adjudicator in January 2021, a decision that was subsequently upheld upon review.
Arguing that the separation of the incidents and the denial of the chronic psychological injury claim were incorrect, the worker sought an appeal, leading to a teleconference hearing attended by the employer’s representative and two observers.
The Appeals Commission noted the lack of participation from the WCB in the appeal process.
Despite the complexity of the case and the evidence presented, the Appeals Commission found insufficient information to conclusively determine the validity of the worker’s claim for a chronic onset psychological injury.
Specifically, the Commission pointed out a lack of clarity and thorough investigation into the alleged workplace events and their impact on the worker’s psychological health.
The worker’s documented psychological conditions, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and others, confirmed by medical professionals, underscore the seriousness of her claims.
However, the Appeals Commission highlighted the need for a more detailed investigation to establish the predominant cause of the injury, objective confirmation of the alleged events, and whether these events were excessive or unusual compared to normal workplace stressors.
As a result, the Appeals Commission has directed the WCB to undertake a comprehensive investigation into the worker’s allegations, including further medical opinions and an examination of the workplace environment and incidents after the worker’s reinstatement in 2019.
This investigation is expected to address gaps identified in the initial handling of the claim, with a focus on gathering more substantial evidence and insights into the alleged harassment and bullying.
For more information, see Decision No.: 2023-0596, 2024 CanLII 6419 (AB WCAC).