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Tribunal finds limits on mental health claims unconstitutional

work-stressOntario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) has found that the limit on mental health claims under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (“WSIA”) is unconstitutional.

In Decision No. 2157/09, the Tribunal found that the provisions in WSIA limiting entitlement to mental stress that “arises from an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected event” violate the equality guarantee in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Tribunal reasoned that the section treated workers with mental disabilities differently. The Tribunal also found that the related Workplace Safety and Insurance Board policy was unconstitutional.

This is a significant decision for employers and employees in addressing mental health in the workplace. It may expand claims beyond an employer’s private insurance provider and provides another forum for mental health claims arising out of and in the course of employment. While the Tribunal decision is not binding on other adjudicators, it is likely to shift worker’s compensation law as it pertains to mental health.

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Meghan Ferguson

General Counsel & Director, Employee Relations at CNIB
Meghan Ferguson is legal counsel for Human Resources, Sales, Finance and Communications.She provides advice for people and transactions. Previous employment:
Kellogg Company, Devry Smith Frank LLP, Hudson's Bay Company, and in the employment standards, labour and health & safety divisions at the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Read more
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