Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions
- Jurisdiction, Tribunal (federal worker) (disablement)
- Stress, mental
The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for mental stress in 2002, which she related to harassment at work. The worker provided medical reporting that her emotional condition meant that she could not attend the hearing. The Panel agreed to hear the appeal without requiring her to testify. The worker's representative stated that he did not dispute the factual findings about whether the worker had been harassed which were found in an independent investigation arranged for by the employer. These findings were very different from the worker's allegations about the facts as found in the written record. On direction of the Panel, the worker's representative confirmed with the worker that she agreed with the representative. This decision also addresses whether the mental stress provisions in s. 13 of the WSIA apply to appeals for chronic occupational stress that are subject to the provisions of the Government Employees Compensation Act. The Panel reviewed submissions from Tribunal counsel. Those submissions contained an extensive review of the development of GECA and workers' compensation legislation, application of GECA to disablement claims and application of GECA to stress claims, including analysis of Tribunal decisions regarding GECA and disablement, and of case law regarding GECA and stress. The Panel accepted that the definition of accident in GECA included a disablement. The wording of the provision was sufficiently extensive to include disablement. Because of this finding, it was not necessary to make a finding about whether the wording also extended to include a disablement because that provision of the WSIA was incorporated into GECA as a condition under which compensation is payable under s. 4(2) of GECA. Since GECA extends to disablements, it also extends to cases in which workplace stressors have been a significant contributing factor to a worker's development of an emotional disability. Regarding s. 13 of the WSIA, the strongest line of cases (including case from other provinces) supports the view that s. 13 is not incorporated into GECA because it is not consistent with the definition of accident included in GECA. Section 13 would limit the ambit of that definition and, therefore, is inconsistent with it. However, that result is not entirely clear, and a contrary view is arguable. However, it was not necessary for the Panel to decide that issue, as the case does not turn upon the application of s. 13. On extensive review of the evidence, the Panel found that the misperceptions of the relevant facts were so substantial that the injuring process was her misperception of the workplace events and not the events themselves. Her misperceptions were a significant cause of her emotional reactions, and it was also possible that her psychiatric condition was a significant cause of her misperceptions. Workplace stressors were not of sufficient significance as contributing factors in the worker's illness for the worker's emotional breakdown to be compensable. The appeal was dismissed.