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Ashley Madison’s $20M employee lawsuit for workplace related injuries

Ashley Madison, the world’s leading website for married people seeking extramarital affairs, recently made headlines when a former employee sued the Canadian-based organization for $20-million for injuries sustained while creating fake profiles of women for the site. Doriana Silva was hired by Ashley Madison to help launch a Brazilian version of the dating site. Shortly after she came on board, she was asked to create 1000 “fake female profiles”—in a period of three weeks—in order to lure men to sign up for the new service. According to Silva, creating these profiles “created an enormous amount of keyboarding” and she quickly developed severe pain in her wrists and forearms (Source: CBC News).

Silva alleges that the company ignored her complaints and her request for a wrist rest. According to her claim, she became unable to do her job and “remains seriously disabled in many if not all aspects of her life”. She also stated that the company refused to grant her workers’ compensation or insurance despite an earlier agreement that she would be covered.

Ashley Madison refuted this claim saying that Silva exaggerated her injury in order to support demands for compensation which escalated over time (Source: City News). At the time of the injury, Ashley Madison claimed that they arranged to have Silva evaluated and that an independent insurance auditor refused her claim. The company also claimed that two separate medical professionals met with Silva and prescribed “nothing more than rest” – something that the Ashley Madison says it was willing to allow. You can read Ashley Madison’s full statement to the press, which includes details of their attempts to accommodate, here.

The real question is how Silva was able to sue Ashley Madison in the first place—shouldn’t they have been covered by workers’ compensation in the event of a workplace injury?

What about WSIB coverage?

Most Ontario employers are required to be registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) within 10 days of hiring their first worker. However, there are still a small number of employers that fall outside of these requirements. In these cases, the decision is left up to the individual employer—either they can choose to be covered with the WSIB voluntarily or they can decide to go it alone. Based on the information given in the news, it appears as though Ashley Madison would fall into this category.

The purpose of the WSIB is to provide workplace insurance coverage for all of your workers. One of the benefits of registering is the no-fault insurance protection from lawsuits in the event of a work-related injury.

The Ashley Madison case is an extreme example of the kinds of consequences you can face as an employer if you decide to go it alone for workplace insurance coverage. Not only have they found themselves in a lawsuit for over $20 million in compensation, they have also attracted an enormous amount of negative publicity as a result.

However, this is not to say that the company isn’t fighting back. The dating site has recently released pictures of the woman playing on a jet ski and travelling after her alleged injury. They released a statement saying,

Throughout this lawsuit, Ms. Silva has continued to lead an active life and has shown no side effects from her so called injury, as evidence by her photo postings”(Source: National Post).

You can read their full statement here.

Changes to construction industry coverage

As an organization, even when you are covered by WSIB, it is critical to keep up to date with changes happening in your industry. Right now, due to a major unfunded liability, the WSIB is making significant reforms (See blog post on the topic: WSIB making progress: The hard reality for employers).

The number of companies that are not required to have coverage with the WSIB seems to be shrinking as the WSIB attempts to bring more and more employers under its umbrella. Big news earlier this year that impacted majority of the construction industry was the implementation of Bill 119 Mandatory Coverage. As of January 1, 2013, the previously exempt contractors are now required to register with the WSIB and to ensure that any employers have access to their Clearance Number. This also applies to nearly everyone else in the construction industry as well – not just workers, but business owners too.

Employer take-aways

The Ashley Madison case and the recent changes in the construction industry only serve to emphasize the importance of keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in the WSIB and the world of disability management. Not taking this seriously, as this case demonstrates, can result in astronomical costs and potentially extreme consequences.

Clear Path Employer Services
HR Consultants and Disability Management Experts
www.clearpathemployer.com

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Clear Path Employer Services

Certified HR consultants and medical professionals at Clear Path Employer Services
Clear Path Employer Services is a team of certified HR consultants and medical professionals dedicated to resolving the human resources and claims management challenges facing businesses across Ontario. The company was founded in 2003 by Anna Aceto-Guerin, a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) specializing in WSIB claims management and NEER cost containment, with a focus on return-to-work programs and acquiring SIEF cost relief for employers. Read more
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