The news, when I first read it, really stunned me. According to the CBC News, the legislature in Saskatchewan passed legislation this week that would allow any worker with any psych issue to file a claim for workers’ comp. Specifically the news service reported:
The government says workers will need to provide a diagnosis from a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but it will be presumed that their injury was work-related unless proven otherwise. (emphasis added)
Labor Minister Don Morgan was quoted in the Regina CTV News as saying “the legislation is unique in Canada because it covers all forms of psychological injury that workers could suffer on the job”, continuing with “Establishing this presumption is an assurance to anyone suffering that they will be believed. It is my hope that this change to the law will encourage people to feel comfortable and confident enough to come forward and seek support from the WCB.”
For those of you in the U.S. who are unaware, Saskatchewan is not a mystical place from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is a real place – a Province – in Canada, with people and everything. Canada is the big block of land along our northern border. It is the border where we are not planning to build a wall, although rumor has it that the Canadians are planning to build one. That is understandable. If Rosie O’Donnell was threatening to move to my country, I would build a wall too. But I digress…..
You can imagine, both with my conservative bent and our wussified, namby pamby society’s penchant for easy offense and psychological injury that I found this quite alarming. However, I did something I rarely do prior to going off on an expletive laden rant; I asked someone in the know. I reached out to Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board CEO Peter Federko for clarification.
Federko told me that there might be a “couple of misnomers” in the way it was being portrayed in the news. He indicated that the idea of a DSMV diagnosis being automatically accepted by the WCB was not a “slam dunk”. He said “under the rebuttable presumption we are still going to have to take some kind of history to determine that the injury did arise from/in the course of employment.”
Of course, this legislation makes it sound as if psych injury coverage is new to Saskatchewan. The agency has actually had a policy on it since 1992, and Federko said they “have paid hundreds, if not thousands of psychological injury claims. In that same vein, we have provided this coverage to all workers.” He said while the required presumption “puts us in the position of starting from the position that it is work related, we still need to undertake the development work to confirm that work was the predominant contributory factor.”
It appears to me, from the remaining information in the news articles I read, that the effort began as a protective measure for First Responders. This is not unusual; here in the states many jurisdictions have provided special presumptions for First Responders and their unique working environment. Lobbying for the effort was apparently driven by groups from that sector, however, Labor (Labour in Canadian) Minister Morgan indicated that the government made the change for all workers, not just first responders, because “it would be impossible to list all of the jobs that should qualify.”
For many of you I should not have to point out the pitfalls of this type of thinking. We are developing into a perversely oversensitive society, where Halloween costumes that are too scary or “hateful words” like “Trump 2016” on college campuses are prompting a need for counselors. We have “safe spaces” and “free speech zones” lest we offend those with the fairest of sensitivities. We have become a nation of victims simply each waiting our turn to be offended or psychologically damaged by someone else’s actions and insensitivity. Creating the perception that any psych injury could be “protected” by workers’ comp strikes me as a disservice to the public at large.
I don’t envy the work I imagine this may create for the people of the Saskatchewan WCB. It seems to me the public has been told that any psychological injury will now be assumed to be employment related, but the fact remains that a preponderance of evidence will still be required to support that claim.
It seems the more crazy changes, the more crazy stays the same. I am appreciative that Mr. Federko took the time to clarify the WCB policies related to psych coverage in the wake of this new law. But I have to admit, the uninformed expletive laden rants are much more fun to write….