Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 472 22
21/04/2022
G. Dee
  • Jurisdiction, Tribunal (human rights legislation)
  • Right to sue (motor vehicle insurance)
  • Stress, mental (effect of termination)
  • Right to sue (wrongful dismissal) (mental stress)

A worker was involved in a motor vehicle accident in October 2017. He initiated a civil action and claimed no-fault accident benefits. He was terminated from employment in December 2017. The employer sought a ruling that the worker was barred from pursuing an action against it.

The Vice-Chair reiterated that the WSIA does not remove the ability of workers to pursue genuine wrongful dismissal actions against their employers following the termination of employment. The employer asserted, however, that the civil action was instead a tort claim in disguise that was based upon the presence of injuries that the respondent sustained in the course of his employment.
Following the release of the Morningstar decision, the Vice-Chair noted that the factual linkage between the circumstances surrounding an injury and the circumstances giving rise to the wrongful dismissal action can no longer be regarded as the sole focus of the determination of whether a wrongful dismissal action will be allowed to proceed. The Vice-Chair noted that it is the substance of the action and not the framing of the action that determines whether an action will or will not be allowed to proceed. A focus is required on whether the damages being claimed in the civil action are in respect of a work-related personal injury for which workers' compensation benefits may be paid such that it is essentially a tort claim in disguise.
The Vice-Chair distinguished the circumstances of the present appeal from the Morningstar decision as the respondent/worker was not asserting that he was mentally stressed and constructively dismissed as result of incidents occurring in the course of his employment. There was instead a formal termination of the worker by the employer and the alleged mental stress injuries flowed from the dismissal itself as opposed to the performance of work related duties.
The Vice-Chair stated that no entitlement exists under the insurance plan for a mental stress injury resulting from the termination of a worker. It was noted that the lack of entitlement to benefits for mental stress caused by a termination is significant as the removal of the right to sue is based upon eligibility to benefits under the WSIA. Therefore, if no entitlement exists for this under the Act, the right to sue is not removed and the worker is not prohibited from pursuing a civil action for mental stress injury.
Based on a review of the Statement of Claim, the Vice-Chair concluded that the action brought by the respondent could continue. However, certain allegations in the Statement of Claim which included a request for damages as a result of injuries sustained in the motor vehicle accident were removed.
With respect to the Human Rights Code violations claimed by the worker, it was noted that there is Tribunal case law that states that the Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to remove an individual's ability to bring an application to the Human Rights Tribunal under the Human Rights Code. However, in the present case, the claim for breaches was contained within a civil action. The Vice-Chair ultimately found that the claim for damages for injuries sustained to his dignity, feelings and self-respect may proceed. It was noted that the Act does not contain a remedy for such injuries. However, it was determined that the worker may not proceed in respect of lost wages or other economic loss that may have been caused by the termination as a result of the respondent's workplace injury, as this would be too similar to the purpose behind LOE and re-employment benefits under the Act.