- Stress, mental
- Board Directives and Guidelines (stress, mental) (chronic)
The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for chronic mental stress.In 2017, the employer began discussing with the worker a new position that included different duties and working at a different location. The worker accepted the position. She began to have misgivings, and then found out that the position was a secondment and not a permanent position. She developed depression and anxiety, and stopped working in January 2018.Pursuant to s. 13(4) of the WSIA, a worker is entitled to benefits for chronic or traumatic mental stress arising out of and in the course of employment. Pursuant to Board Operational Policy Manual, Document No. 15-03-04, on chronic mental stress, a worker will generally be entitled to benefits where a diagnosed mental stress injury is caused by a substantial work-related stressor. The policy provides that a work-related stressor will generally be considered substantial if it is excessive in intensity and/or duration in comparison to the normal pressures and tensions experienced by workers in similar circumstances. It follows that entitlement will not be in order if the work-related stressor is not considered to be excessive in intensity and/or duration when compared to the normal pressures and tensions experienced by workers in similar circumstances.The Vice-Chair concluded that the worker sustained an impairment related to workplace stress.The policy requirement of a substantial work-related stressor was similar to the role of the average worker test. The value of the average worker test, and similarly the substantial work-related stressor test, was to ensure that there was an actual injuring process related to employment. It sets an objective standard for identifying compensable accidents which are causally related to chronic stress. However, that test should not be applied so as to limit the application of the thin skull rule.The Vice-Chair then considered the policy provision that the work-related stressor be the predominant cause of the worker's impairment. This should be understood to mean that the work stressors must be the primary or main cause of the mental stress injury. This approach is a change from the approach which ordinarily applies in workers' compensation law, that work-related factors have made a significant contribution to the injury.Section 13.4(1) provides that a worker is entitled to benefits as if the mental stress were a personal injury by accident. It was well established that the significant contribution test is the standard test for causation in workers' compensation cases. The Vice-Chair was of the view that s. 13(4.1) should be considered as an interpretive lens for the Board policy. In this context, the policy should be interpreted in a manner which is consistent with section 13(4.1).The decision noted that the worker had a pre-existing psychological condition, but it had not caused the worker to lose time from work during the 10 years she had worked with the employer. The Vice-Chair concluded that the work-related stressors were substantial and could be associated with an injuring process. The work-related stressors were the predominant or main cause of the worker's impairment, and made a significant contribution to the injuring process.The Vice-Chair then considered s. 13(5), which provides that a worker is not entitled to benefits for mental stress caused by decisions or actions of the worker's employer relating to the worker's employment, including a decision to change the work to be performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker or to terminate the employment.The work-related stressors in this case were associated with the work assignments and a transfer to new working conditions. The worker's impairment was work-related, but that entitlement was limited by the explicit words of s. 13(5). Accordingly, the worker did not have entitlement for chronic mental stress. The appeal was dismissed.