The Stress At Work Evolution
Many countries have strict regulations when it comes to making a stress at work claim. The issue is complex due to the difficulties in proving whether stress is in fact a factor of work however in some states it is easier than others. The legislation for this type of claim in Canada made it near impossible to gain compensation.
In 1997 Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) restricted entitlement. They maintained that mental stress had to cause a severe reaction as a product of a sudden or unexpected event suffered during employment. This meant that a worker was not allowed to claim compensation for stress as a result of an employer’s actions or decisions.
It was allowed to be a result of a criminal act harassment or a horrific accident and the person in question would have needed to have suffered from or witnessed the event first hand. They could also have heard the event for example if they were on the telephone at the time of the incident. A claim was also allowed to be made if a mental disability had occurred due to a work-related accident.These type of claims were not bound to any types of restrictions.
Consequently the legislation in place made it extremely hard to gain compensation for work-induced stress. However these restrictions have now been found to be unconstitutional which came about by a claim made by a nurse. She had been working at a hospital for 28 years and for 12 had been subjected to ill-treatment from one of the doctors working there. He continuously yelled at her and made demeaning comments and on the occasion that sparked her claim he interrupted her with a patient and told her to “shoo” before closing the door on her heels.
Her claim for benefits was denied by the WSIB and also the appeal court. They accepted it had caused adjustment disorder (when an individual is unable to adjust to or cope with a particular stressor) however they said it did not constitute a “traumatic and unexpected event.” There have been many similar cases to this over past years.
A challenge to the Charter followed the Tribunal’s decision to deny the appeal’s merits. The worker argued that restriction of stress claims violated the equality rights of the Charter involving discrimination. However she challenged the restriction of sudden or traumatic events arising out of employment rather than stress by an employer’s decisions and actions.
The Attorney General argued that the restrictions in place were required because many people are quick to pin the blame of stress on work and also because it is medically impossible to determine whether stress is caused by work or external factors. However the Tribunal overruled this argument and has opted for a change in the laws. It has stated that the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board is substantial where claims can be made where work is a predominant cause of stress and the events leading to this were excessive or unusual.
Not all panels are being made to adopt this approach so only time will tell if they make similar changes. Stress at work is an increasing issue as people become more aware about the effects it can have on employees and employers are urged to take action into protecting employee welfare. If not they may be facing a lawsuit.