Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions
- Stress, mental
- Board Directives and Guidelines (stress, mental) (traumatic event)
- Board Directives and Guidelines (stress, mental) (acute reaction)
In September 2005, a male co-worker came up to the worker from behind and grabbed her crotch. The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying the worker entitlement for traumatic mental stress. Board policy provides that a worker is entitled to benefits for traumatic mental stress that is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of and in the course of employment. In this case, the incident occurred during employment, it was sudden and unexpected and it was objectively traumatic within the meaning of the policy. The Panel was of the view that, where it has been determined that unwanted touching of a sexual nature has occurred, the incident should be considered objectively traumatic by its very nature. The Panel noted that the requirement that the incident be objectively traumatic is different from the requirement that the incident be traumatic for the worker. The requirement that the incident be traumatic for the worker, i.e., subjectively traumatic, will be considered in the context of whether the worker experienced an acute reaction, either immediate or delayed, to the incident. The Board policy provides that an acute reaction is a significant or severe reaction to the work-related traumatic event that results in a psychiatric or psychological response. An acute reaction is considered immediate if it occurs within four weeks and is considered delayed if it occurs more than four weeks after the traumatic event. The policy does not impose a maximum time for a delayed reaction. However, it must be clear that the onset was due to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event and there must be an Axis 1 diagnosis. The worker did not lose time from work as a result of an acute emotional reaction to any events until April 2007 and there was no Axis 1 diagnosis until that time. The Panel accepted that the worker was shocked, angry and distressed by the incident immediately but she was able to continue functioning and did not seek medical attention within the immediate period. The Panel concluded that the worker did not suffer an immediate acute reaction. The worker was able to continue in this sub-acute status until April 2007, when there were employment issues relating to workload. These employment issues were excluded from entitlement for traumatic mental stress. However, considering the medical evidence, the Panel found that the worker's acute reaction in April 2007 was attributable to a significant degree to the incident in September 2005. Thus, in April 2007, the worker had an acute delayed reaction to the incident in September 2005. The worker had entitlement for traumatic mental stress resulting from the incident in September 2005. The appeal was allowed.