Home Featured Tribunal cites ’employer-decision exclusion’ in denying WCB benefits to nurse who alleged bullying, harassment by bosses

Tribunal cites ’employer-decision exclusion’ in denying WCB benefits to nurse who alleged bullying, harassment by bosses

by HR Law Canada

A British Columbia nurse’s appeal for compensation due to alleged workplace bullying and harassment has been denied by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT).

The nurse, employed at a long-term care facility, claimed her mental disorder was a direct result of interactions with her superiors from March 2020 to January 2021.

On March 9, 2023, the WCAT upheld an earlier decision by a WorkSafeBC adjudicator, stating the incidents described did not meet the criteria for traumatic events or significant workplace stressors as required under section 135 of the Workers Compensation Act.

The review officer also noted that such claims fall under the employer-decision exclusion, meaning they would not be compensable even if they had caused a mental disorder.

“There is no entitlement to compensation if the mental disorder is caused by a decision of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment,” the tribunal said.

“The Act provides a list of examples of decisions relating to a worker’s employment which include decisions to change the work to be performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker, or to terminate the worker’s employment. The policy adds that other examples may include decisions of the employer relating to workload and deadlines, work evaluation, performance management, transfers, changes in job duties, lay-offs, demotions, and reorganizations.”

The nurse, represented by her union, had argued that her interactions with a resident care coordinator and a nurse educator constituted significant workplace stressors. However, the Tribunal found that these incidents were part of normal management decisions about employment.

Dr. Reimer, a psychologist who assessed the nurse, noted she likely suffered from major depressive disorder and adjustment disorder with anxiety. Despite this, the tribunal maintained that the nurse’s psychological stress did not stem from the workplace conditions protected under the Act.

“Even if a sufficient causal link is present between a DSM-diagnosed mental disorder and traumatic or stressful events, compensation may still be unavailable if the traumatic or stressful events are related to the exercise of an employer’s management rights,” the tribunal stated.

For more information, see A2300651 (Re), 2024 CanLII 32459 (BC WCAT).

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