The 2017 Budget included some unexpected good news for injured workers: the government is planning to remove the statutory bar to chronic mental stress claims, effective January 1, 2018. Does this mean an end to discrimination against injured workers with chronic mental stress? Well, maybe…
Recently I came across a flyer advertising the OWTL’s services, and it reminded me how few injured workers I meet know about the library—even though it’s a tremendous resource for self-represented workers and professional advocates alike. So I’ve taken it upon myself to do a bit of unsolicited promotional work for the library in this blog.
There are two things that make the OWTL a treasure.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about the ongoing suffering caused by the government’s failure to respond to several WSIAT decisions stating that the exclusion of chronic mental stress from workers’ compensation in Ontario is unconstitutional. I’ve also speculated about the government’s motives for neither seeking judicial review of the decisions nor amending the legislation to fix the problem.
I decided that, rather than speculating, it would be fairer to the government and more helpful for injured workers if I simply asked Kevin Flynn, the Minister of Labour, about the issue.
In this post I provide readers a copy of our correspondence, and my commentary on it. Continue reading
In late February, the Ontario government announced that it is going to change the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act “to create a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related.” The draft legislation hasn’t been released yet, but the government promises that it will “allow faster access to WSIB benefits and timely treatment, ultimately supporting positive recovery outcomes.”
This is, without doubt, good news for emergency response workers who develop PTSD, as it removes their cases from the WSIA’s exclusionary mental stress provisions, and treats their illness as an bona fide occupational disease.
However, the proposed amendments are carefully restricted to PTSD, so that emergency response workers who develop any other disabling mental illness (e.g. depression) will be left out in the cold. Worse still, the announcement implies that the government has no intention of providing any relief to other kinds of workers who develop a mental illness as a result of their work, who continue to be barred from claiming WSIB benefits. Continue reading
[Author’s note: this post was published in February 2016. For an important update on the UFL, please read my post from September 27, 2018]
Elizabeth Witmer and David Marshall recently wrote an opinion piece in the Financial Post, in which they lauded the reduction in the WSIB’s unfunded liability under their leadership, asserting that it was achieved “all the while maintaining benefits for injured workers.”
Injured workers, and people who work with them, don’t believe that for a second: it’s clear to us that injured workers are effectively paying down the unfunded liability through denials of or reductions to benefits. I wrote a letter to the Financial Post’s editor, which I hoped would be published, but (imagine!) it was not. So here it is, for readers of my blog.
Manitoba is changing its workers’ compensation law so that when an emergency response worker develops PTSD, the illness is presumed to be an occupational disease, and the worker is compensated accordingly. But in Ontario, the opposite happens: the law actually excludes claims for PTSD caused by the kinds of traumatic events they might “expect” to experience during their careers.
In my view, this betrays the fundamental purpose of workers’ compensation law. In February, the Legislature will likely schedule the second reading of Bill 2, a private member’s Bill that would set matters right. This blog describes the current sorry situation, and will hopefully encourage readers of all political stripes to support NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo’s bill.
The Catholic Church closed the netherworld of limbo in 2007, but last year the Wynne government re-opened it for people who develop a mental illness as a result of their work.
Following two successful Charter challenges at the WSIAT, the government has conceded that the law which currently bars such people from making WSIB claims is unconstitutional, and yet it has failed to amend the law in any way. As a result, the WSIB and WSIAT must continue to apply the law to deny claims, unless it is challenged anew in each and every case.
But how many injured workers can afford to engage in constitutional litigation? And how can it be fair to require them to do so, when the government knows that the statutory bar is unlawful? Continue reading