Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1882 12
24/01/2013
R. Nairn - M. Trudeau - R. Briggs
  • Stress, mental
  • Harassment
  • Board Directives and Guidelines (stress, mental) (cumulative trauma)

The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for traumatic mental stress.

The worker worked in a mining operation. The worker stopped working in December 2008, claiming harassment by a co-worker over an extended period of time of at least two years.
The causes of the worker's condition were clearly and precisely identifiable. There was a long list of specific events in which the co-worker continuously harassed the worker verbally and which progressed to physical harassment consisting of the co-worker bumping in to the worker. The issue is whether this harassment satisfies the Board policy requirement of being sudden, unexpected and traumatic. The test for determining whether events are unexpected and traumatic is not subjective. The events must be objectively traumatic.
In this case, the worker was never actually threatened by the co-worker. However, he was subjected continuously over a period of two years to verbal harassment, consisting of glares, ridicule, innuendo and accusations, which progressed to occasional physical contact and general intimidation. Even accepting that there is a level of give and take between co-workers expected in the type of work environment, no reasonable observer would conclude that the type of interaction in this case would be expected in the course of employment. The co-worker's actions went beyond those normally expected in a workplace and satisfied the requirement of being objectively traumatic.
The worker had entitlement for traumatic mental stress. The appeal was allowed.