In Bendera v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal, 2018 BCSC 552 the Supreme Court of British Columbia set aside a Tribunal decision denying a workers’ compensation claim for PTSD, finding that the decision was undermined by an “absurd” interpretation of the Workers Compensation Act.
In 2013, the Tribunal had found that the worker’s PTSD was caused by coercive and threatening comments made to her by managers but that the worker was not eligible for compensation because the offending comments “concerned matters related to the worker’s employment”. On that basis, the Tribunal found that the PTSD was exempt from compensation under section 5.1(1)(c) of the Workers Compensation Act. That part of the Act prohibits the payment of compensation for a “mental disorder” that is “caused by a decision of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment”.
The Court found that the Tribunal’s interpretation of section 5.1(1)(c) of the Workers Compensation Act was contrary to the Legislature’s purpose in enacting the law, and was inconsistent the scheme of the Act as a whole. The Court found that, absurdly, the Tribunal’s interpretation of the law “could result in a situation where an employer, who is in a particular position of power at the workplace, is afforded an exemption to threaten, intimidate, bully and harass, provided that their behaviour is related to the worker’s employment status.”
The Court set aside the Tribunal’s decision on the application of section 5.1(1)(c) of the Workers Compensation Act in the worker’s case and directed the Tribunal to reconsider its determination that the worker’s claim is excluded from compensation.