WSIAT Decision No. 693/20 is the first WSIAT decision that provides a framework for adjudicating claims for Chronic Mental Stress (“CMS”) entitlement since coverage was expanded to this form of psychological entitlement as of January 1, 2018. Importantly, The Vice Chair provides an analysis of WSIB Policy No. 15-03-14 (the “CMS Policy”) whether a work-related stressor(s) is ‘substantial’ and whether the stressor(s) was the predominant cause of a worker’s mental stress injury.
Interestingly, the case was decided by a sole Vice Chair (M. Crystal) and facts before the Vice Chair did not require them to consider each CMS entitlement criteria. The appeal was denied on the basis that the work-related stressors fell within the exclusion criteria outlined in ss. 13(5) of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (“WSIA”). The Vice Chair’s decision to provide a framework despite not needing to suggests their recognition that workplace parties have been waiting for further guidance. Although the Vice Chair may have set out to provide clarity, the decision raises new questions as to how the Policy will be applied.
The accident employer is a community-based provider of home support services. The worker was hired in 2006 as a social worker. The employer considered the worker to be a solid contributor to the employer’s work. In 2017 the employer offered the worker a position as a Care Navigator. The worker understood that the position was part of a pilot project and agreed to take on the new challenge.
Prior to transitioning into the new role, the worker began to feel apprehensive about the position and asked the employer for a written job description. Upon receiving the description, the worker was shocked to learn that the position was classified as a secondment and not as a permanent position.
The worker immediately began to worry about their status with the employer, fearing for their job security. Shortly after learning that they were transitioning to a secondment, the worker began to experience insomnia, mood changes, loss of appetite, periods of crying, and general feelings of exhaustion. As the transition to the secondment neared, the worker began to feel depressed and anxious.
The worker had a history of anxiety and depression, for which they had received treatment prior to their employment with the Company. They had also experienced panic attacks. The worker took medication for their psychological conditions and the conditions were well-managed and under control until the incident at issue. As a result of their mounting depression and anxiety, the worker stopped working in January 2018. The worker then sought entitlement to benefits under the WSIA, claiming CMS caused by their employment.