TNRD staffer’s mental-health claim rejected

Documents provided to KTW via a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request show an employee requested an undisclosed amount of money related to interactions with a regional district supervisor

A Thompson-Nicola Regional District employee sought compensation for a mental-health condition related to interactions with a supervisor prior to the sudden departure of former CAO Sukh Gill, but the claim was rejected by WorkSafeBC.

Documents provided to KTW via a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request show an employee requested an undisclosed amount of money related to events at work in the regional district.

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The Jan. 23, 2019, letter from WorkSafeBC notes the events occurred in the “past year,” from 2018 to 2019. It does not make clear whether the complainant is a former or current employee and personal information within the claim is redacted, including names of the employee and supervisor.

WorkSafeBC entitlement officer Alison Brown wrote about the claim and decision. Partially redacted information details a situation in which the TNRD supervisor allegedly ignored the TNRD employee.

“[Redacted] reported that you felt your supervisor ignored you as you attempted to determine what tasks needed to be done [redacted.] You were upset that you were told you could leave [redacted] and should have been involved in the process. Redacted] attended a meeting in which your supervisor did not acknowledge your presence and did not provide you with direction about how to proceed with tasks following the meeting. [Redacted] had a discussion with your supervisor regarding overtime procedures. Under her decision and reasoning for rejecting the employee compensation, Brown noted workers are not entitled to compensation if events are “caused by a decision of the employer relating to the worker’s employment.”

“A decision of the employer may be communicated in a way that a worker finds upsetting, but this is not determinative, as heated exchanges or emotional conflict at work over matters such as discipline, performance or assignment of duties are not uncommon,” Brown wrote. “For the conduct of the person communicating the decision of the employer to constitute a significant workplace stressor, one should consider whether the conduct was in some way threatening.”

Brown determined the interactions between the employee and supervisor were neither threatening nor abusive and were work-related. She wrote that the employee reported being “upset,” but that they had also indicated the way in which the information was delivered was neither threatening nor abusive. Furthermore, Brown wrote that the employee confirmed the supervisor’s behaviour was not solely directed at the one employee, but that the supervisor “is a challenging person to work with.”

“I have considered the evidence overall and although I acknowledge the incidents described were distressing, I do not find they were either traumatic or a significant stressor,” the document states. “Based on my review, I conclude that the requirements of Section 5.1 of the Act have not been met. I have disallowed your claim. This means that health care and wage-loss benefits will not be paid.”

Brown also wrote that she did not receive confirmation as to whether the employee’s condition constituted a mental disorder, as required by the Workers Compensation Act, though the aforementioned details had informed her decision.

Additional documents reference a claim for compensation for a mental disorder caused by employment at the regional district. The letter is dated Feb. 10, 2020, but does not detail the circumstances. It is not clear whether it is related to the same employee or a second employee, but it was also denied.

In late January, WorkSafeBC ordered the TNRD to update its bullying and harassment policy and procedures. It was also around the time the regional district’s CAO, Sukh Gill, was put on paid leave before leaving suddenly, after two decades at the helm of the organization.

In a settlement agreement, Gill will be paid more than a half-million dollars in compensation, which the TNRD said was a compromise agreement based on a disputed claim, the details of which the regional district has said will not be released.

The TNRD originally claimed Gill had retired, but documents obtained by KTW revealed the retirement claim was part of the legal severance agreement, which stated, “The TNRD will announce Mr. Gill’s departure from the TNRD as retirement.”

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