WCB claims arising from unwanted or accidental physical contact are on the rise. But what’s an employer to do?
Question of the week:
Q: Last year one of our male employees brushed up against a female colleague while passing behind her through a narrow corridor. By all accounts, according to eyewitnesses, the contact was innocent and harmless. However, the lady worker is now on WCB for severe anxiety and PTSD. She’s been off-work for months on the advice of her psychologist who says his patient is permanently disabled. And now it seems we’re on the hook for a permanent WCB pension. How can this be?
A: The specific details of the incident are always crucial in these cases. But taken at face value, your worker’s claim may be valid per WCB policy. For instance, if the worker has a history of suffering physical abuse, the ‘thin skull’ rule may apply—meaning that a pre-existing vulnerability to trauma would not preclude a WCB claim.
Sexual harassment can encompass a number of actions including unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This includes:
- Requests or demands to submit to any conduct, explicit or implicit, as a term or condition of an individual’s employment status
- Retaliation that later affects an individual’s career based on an individual submitting to or refusing to submit to conduct
- Any other conduct that has the purpose of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating a poor and hostile work environment
In these sensitive and complicated cases, it always advisable to consider hiring an experienced employer’s representative to ensure that a) the diagnosis was based on a comprehensive psych assessment and b) to advocate for cost relief if the workplace incident aggravated an already fragile mental state, thus extending the period of recovery.