McInnes Cooper Legal Alert: SCC Clarifies Workers’ Compensation Criteria for Federal Employees
This information was released to OEA by email March 31, 2014 from McInnes Cooper.
SCC CLARIFIES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CRITERIA FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
By David Eaton, Michael Murphy
On March 28, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada resolved the confusion about whether and how provincial workers’ compensation laws apply to claims of federal government employees under the federal workers compensation law (the Government Employees Compensation Act):
Provincial Law Unless “Conflict”. Provincial workers’ compensation laws (including relevant policies) apply to federal government employee compensation claims unless the provincial law or policy “directly” and “expressly” conflicts with the federal law.
Federal Law If Conflict. If there is such a conflict, the federal workers’ compensation law applies.
The claim in the particular case was based on benefits for an “accident” based on “chronic onset stress”. Both the federal and the applicable provincial law (Alberta) broadly defined “accident” to include a wilful and intentional act, but a provincial policy set out additional criteria for chronic onset stress claims. The SCC said the laws did not “conflict” so the provincial law – and its limiting policy – applied to the claim.
All four Atlantic Provinces exclude chronic or gradual onset stress as a compensable injury under their respective provincial workers compensation schemes. Most have accepted that the broad definition of “accident” in the federal law includes gradual onset stress – but those where courts have considered it have applied different legal tests:
NS. For some time, NS has applied a policy substantially similar to the Alberta policy in this case to federal employees complaining of gradual onset stress. Though there are several factors, ultimately, the test boils down to this: did the work-related stress result from excessive or unusual workplace pressures? The SCC’s decision will likely have little impact in NS.
NB and NL. Courts in NB and NL previously rejected the idea that provincial policies can expand or limit what is an “accident” under the federal law and have applied this test: would a reasonable person have responded in the same way to the same stressors? The SCC’s decision means these courts were incorrect - and the provincial boards now seem free to adopt a policy to apply to such claims, though it remains to be seen whether they will do so.
Click here to read the SCC’s decision in Martin v. Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Board), 2014 SCC 25.
Click here to read McInnes Cooper's Publications.
Please contact your McInnes Cooper lawyer or any member of our McInnes Cooper Occupational Health and Safety Team to discuss this topic or any other legal issue.
McInnes Cooper has prepared this document for information only; it is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult McInnes Cooper about your unique circumstances before acting on this information. McInnes Cooper excludes all liability for anything contained in this document and any use you make of it.
© McInnes Cooper, 2014. All rights reserved. McInnes Cooper owns the copyright in this document. You may reproduce and distribute this document in its entirety as long as you do not alter the form or the content and you give McInnes Cooper credit for it. You must obtain McInnes Cooper’s consent for any other form of reproduction or distribution. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org to request our consent.
McInnes Cooper uses your contact information to provide you with information about topics and events in which you may be interested. We do not share your contact information with any external entities. Email us at email@example.com to let us know if you do not want to receive any emails from us.