A Retrospective on Workers’ Compensation Law in 2019

  • February 10, 2020
  • Cassandra Ma

2019 was yet another busy year for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (the “WSIAT”)!

This article covers some of the noteworthy cases released by the WSIAT last year.

I.   Chronic Mental Stress Claims and Workplace Harassment

In one of the most significant workers’ compensation law decisions of the last year, the WSIAT held that a worker’s right to sue for harassment-based constructive dismissal could be taken away by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“WSIA”).

In Decision No. 1227/19, 2019 ONWSIAT 2324, a worker was found precluded from seeking damages in civil court as the facts underpinning her civil action were inextricably linked to a chronic mental stress claim. The worker’s civil action had been based on allegations of constructive dismissal arising from workplace harassment and a poisoned work environment.

The WSIAT held that the worker’s constructive dismissal action was barred by the WSIA. If the worker’s allegations were proven, the alleged workplace harassment would be causally connected to the worker’s claimed mental distress. This, in turn, would mean that the worker’s mental distress was a compensable injury arising out of, or in the course of, employment. Accordingly, the substance of the worker’s civil action was exclusively within the WSIA’s jurisdiction—even though some of the civil remedies sought by the worker were not available under the WSIA.