Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 57 17 I
M. Keil - M. Christie - M. Ferrari
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Police
  • Stress, mental
  • Referral to Board (first responder) (post-traumatic stress disorder)

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

On April 6, 2016, the Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), 2016, received Royal Assent. It amends the WSIA and creates a rebuttable presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related. The presumption applies to workers listed in s. 14(2) of the revised WSIA, including police officers.
Section 14(14) provides that, if a worker listed in s. 14(2) filed a claim for PTSD and the claim is pending before the Tribunal when the amending Act received Royal Assent, the Tribunal shall refer the claim back to the Board, and the Board shall decide the claim in accordance with s. 14 as though the requirement in s. 14 (3)(a) and (c) were satisfied.
The worker requested that the Tribunal refer the claim back to the Board in accordance with s. 14(14).
Section 14(3)(a) requires that the worker be listed in s. 14(2) or listed for a least one day after the transition day. The employer submitted that the worker did not meet the criteria in s. 14(3)(a) and (c), in that the worker was on unpaid discretionary leave of absence.
The Vice-Chair found that s. 14(14) requires that a worker be listed in s. 14(2) and that the appeal to the Tribunal was pending on the day the amending section came into force. If those two criteria are met, the Tribunal is to refer the matter back to the Board for consideration as though the requirements in s. 14(3)(a) and (c) have been met. Even if the Tribunal had to consider whether the requirements of s. 14(3)(a) and (c) have been met, the Panel found no indication that the employment relationship was severed. Thus, the Panel would have found that the worker was a listed worker at the relevant time within subsection 3(a) and (c).
Section 14(14) applies to the relevant workers who have filed a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder. The worker in this case filed a claim for traumatic mental stress. Thus, the Panel had to determine whether the amendments applied in this case.
The worker originally filed her claim pursuant to s. 13(5) which allows entitlement for mental stress that is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event. The Board developed its traumatic mental stress policy in response to that section. The policy refers to different diagnoses under the umbrella of traumatic mental stress, including acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder and anxiety or depressive disorder. There was no separate policy for PTSD. Given the wording of the then-applicable Act and policy, it was reasonable to file a claim using the words from those sources, specifically acute mental stress or traumatic mental stress.
The Panel concluded that a claim for traumatic mental stress, provided that there is a diagnosis of PTSD from a psychologist or psychiatrist, should be treated as if the claim were for PTSD. In this case, there was a diagnosis of PTSD.
The appeal was remitted back to the Board pursuant to s. 14(14).