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Workplace Bullying And Harassment: To What Extent Does Workers’ Compensation Legislation Insulate Employers From Liability?

A number of recent Western Canadian court decisions have found that employees who suffer mental distress as a result of bullying or harassment in the workplace are barred from suing their employer for damages if their workplace is subject to workers' compensation insurance. Despite these decisions, employers should not assume workers' compensation offers comprehensive protection against liability for bullying and harassment in the workplace. This is far from the case.

In Ashraf v. SNC Lavalin ATP Inc., a 2013 Alberta trial decision, the Plaintiff alleged that his coworkers systematically and continuously said and did things to demean and marginalize him, and that his employer did nothing to stop the harassment despite his numerous complaints. The Plaintiff alleged he suffered stress and anxiety as result of the harassment, which in turn caused or aggravated a number of physical ailments, ultimately preventing him from returning to gainful employment. As a result, he went off work an...

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