Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1824 12
R. McCutcheon - M. Christie - A. Grande
  • Psychotraumatic disability
  • Stress, mental

The worker suffered a low back injury in June 2004, for which he was granted a 16% NEL award. In May 2006, the worker reported that he was subject to an internal investigation regarding the legitimacy of his 2004 injury and that he began to notice changes in his health which seriously impacted the quality of his life. The worker submitted a claim for traumatic mental stress and psychotraumatic disability on the basis of a new claim in May 2006 or on the basis of relationship to the back injury claim.

The Board denied entitlement for the new claim but granted entitlement for psychotraumatic disability resulting from the 2004 back injury. The employer appealed.
The medical evidence established that the worker developed a psychiatric disability as a result of his treatment in a modified work program following the compensable back injury. This mistreatment included suggestions by his supervisor that he was faking his injury, isolation by co-worker and being followed to his home.
Tribunal jurisprudence establishes that a worker is entitled to benefits for psychotraumatic disability where the psychiatric condition results from mistreatment by a supervisor or co-workers in a medical return-to-work program related to a compensable physical injury. The employer submitted that entitlement was precluded by the mental stress provisions of the WSIA, but the Panel noted that those provisions apply to a claim for stress that is not associated with an accepted physical injury. Mistreatment related to a compensable physical injury is adjudicated under the psychotraumatic disability policy.
The worker's psychiatric condition was not predominantly attributable to the disciplinary process but, rather, to humiliating treatment from his supervisor, unfounded attacks on his integrity and the legitimacy of his claim, being ostracized by colleagues and unwarranted surveillance at his home. This mistreatment was directly related to the worker's compensable physical injury and the subsequent modified work program.
The worker had entitlement for psychotraumatic disability related to the 2004 back injury. The appeal was dismissed.