Dear Blue Collar,
Q: One of our veteran workers is getting on in age. She’s very experienced and we’d like her knowledge transmitted to an eventual successor. However, as I discovered, the worker is extremely sensitive to any suggestion that she’s being replaced. I tried to allay these fears, but she lashed out at me. And now she’s on WCB for a mental injury that I allegedly triggered, or aggravated. What now?
A: Discussion related to a worker’s retirement is a loaded gun. Any inference that you were persuading her to retire would be viewed as both a constructive dismissal and a violation of the human rights code based on age discrimination.
Regarding the claim, WCB interprets ‘trauma’ to include any response to a disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, or diminishes one’s sense of self. On these grounds, ‘trauma’ may stem from a toxic workplace, perceived bullying, excessive workload, feuds with coworkers, microaggressions, ad infinitum.
If WCB was led to believe that you harmed the worker’s self-esteem, the Board will usually take the employee’s word for it. However, you mention “aggravated.” If there’s reason to believe the worker has a history of mental illness, there may be an opportunity for cost relief.