Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1397 21
B. Kalvin - C. Sacco - M. Ferrari
  • Stress, mental (chronic)

The worker was a production associate at a large electric motor manufacturer. He stopped working in 2014, claiming he developed a stress-related psychological illness. The worker's claim was based on several events between 2004 and 2014, but primarily on one incident in which a co-worker was fired after the worker reported the co-worker for deliberately sabotaging employer equipment. Following this incident, the worker faced hostility from other co-workers, including the mother of the co-worker who was fired. His car was egged in the company parking lot and his front fender was damaged. He appealed a Case Manager decision denying entitlement to benefits for traumatic mental stress or chronic mental stress (CMS).

The appeal was allowed.
The worker was entitled to benefits under the CMS policy. The policy provides that stress arising from interpersonal conflicts at work does not entitle a worker to benefits, unless the interpersonal conflict amounts to workplace harassment. Harassment is defined as a course of vexatious conduct including bullying that is known to be unwelcome, or conduct that a reasonable person would perceive as egregious or abusive.
The hostility from the co-worker's mother and other co-workers was typical interpersonal conflict that occurred in the workplace. However, the vandalism to the worker's car went beyond normal interpersonal conflict and crossed the line into abusive. It carried a veiled threat to the worker's personal safety. Vandalizing his car was conduct that the co-workers ought reasonably to have known was unwelcome.