Articles & Media

Stress Claims Under Stress


June 6, 2013

By Hugh McPhail, Q.C.

Two recent Court of Appeal decisions, one from B.C. and one from Alberta, have dealt a blow to individuals trying to get compensation for stress.

Both cases dealt with restrictions under the Workers’ Compensation schemes which narrow the ability to claim statutory Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) benefits for stress. In Alberta, policy says that you can only get benefits if the injury arose from "excessive or unusual" work-related events. The B.C. statute has a similar limitation; the statute says that you can only receive benefits for mental stress if it is an acute reaction to a “sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of and in the course of the worker's employment”.

WCB legislation prevents an injured worker from suing his employer for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, the worker’s employment. In the first case, the claimant tried to get around this statutory restriction by suing for damages in the courts, claiming that the bar against work-related claims did not apply when he could not get WCB benefits. Can you get around it that way? No. The claim was dismissed by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

In the second, the claimant, an employee of a federal employer, tried to argue that the restrictions on claims for stress did not apply when the claim was under federal legislation. The federal legislation gives provincial Boards the right to adjudicate claims if the employee is employed in their province but it was not totally clear whether the provincial restrictions on eligible stress claims applied to these federal claimants. Are federal employees unaffected by such provincial limitations on claims? The answer: no, the same limitations apply. Provincial boards adjudicate federal claims under provincial rules.

Whether you are a federal employee or whether you try to sue to get around the restrictions, you can only get compensation for stress if you meet the provincial criteria. The restrictions apply to all. Workers can only receive stress compensation if they fit within the prescribed type of stress claims.


Labour & Employment - This update is a general overview of the subject matter and cannot be regarded as legal advice. Please contact Teresa Haykowsky in Edmonton, Tom Ross in Calgary, Glenn Tait in Yellowknife, or any member of our Labour & Employment Practice Group for advice on this or any other labour & employment law topic.

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