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Mentally ill workers face discrimination

A Canadian ombudsman has been asked to investigate claims that workers suffering from mental illness may be denied benefits, according to a recent report. While the claims have originated in Ontario, the discrimination investigation could spell out major change for provincial standards in handling mental illness in the workplace here in Alberta as well. The complaint was submitted to the ombudsman on Nov. 10. 

The claim states that the Workplace Safety Insurance Board may be denying benefits regarding select cases of mental illness in certain fields. While the government has instituted laws that have further protected the rights of employees who have faced considerable mental trauma in the workplace, sometimes leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, those who experience similar conditions as a result of ongoing harassment have no such rights. The WSIB does not currently have to compensate workers for chronic mental stress injuries. 

As a result, those affected by these conditions have been forced into litigation against their employers, a sometimes costly, lengthy process that does not guarantee they will be compensated at a later time. The complaint goes on to allege that the government has done nothing to plug this legislative loophole. This comes on the heels of an unprecedented 20 percent increase in independent complaints launched against the WSIB this year. 

Workplace harassment is obviously an issue here in Alberta that litigators have worked hard to mitigate. But handling the discrimination faced by the victims of harassment is a taller order. Thankfully, legal support exists for employees who feel they are not being properly represented or supported in the workplace. Seeking out that support is a critical step in improving workplace conditions across the country. 

Source: Toronto Star, "Ombudsman asked to probe WSIB treatment of mentally ill", Sara Mojtehedzadeh, Nov. 14, 2016

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