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Vancouver Employment Law Blog

Employment law protects workers against unfair treatment

Employees in British Columbia are protected from discriminatory treatment, victimization and bullying in the workplace. WorkSafeBC mandates that employers must ban bullying and harassment of workers by colleagues and supervisors. Bullying and harassment can take on many forms.

An example is a specific employee whose life is made difficult by a manager or supervisor who dislikes him or her. This could include constant criticism of the employee's work, where the employee is in fact competent, or giving the worker menial tasks as punishment. Sometimes a skilled worker is repeatedly overlooked for promotions for which he or she is qualified. While an employer's reasonable actions to manage and direct workers are expressly not bullying and harassment, there are limits to what constitutes acceptable behaviour.

Will workers' comp cover a psychological workplace injury?

The Workers' Compensation Act of British Columbia mandates that employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of employees. The well-being of workers can be adversely affected even if they witnessed a traumatic event but were not physically injured. In these cases, workers may be concerned about their ability to make a successful claim for compensation for medical esxpenses without suffering a visible workplace injury.

Suffering a traumatic injury or witnessing a co-worker suffering a fatal or near-fatal injury could cause a mental disorder that may be compensable by WorkSafeBC. Not all workers react in the same way if they experience traumatic events in the workplace; some may get over the trauma relatively quickly, while others might experience long-term psychological distress. Typical diagnoses may include acute stress reactions, anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Debilitating workplace injury risks threaten even teachers

The director of a Canadian concussion centre recently said that, contrary to popular belief, teachers face significant risks of concussion. More and more teachers in British Columbia and across Canada report head trauma suffered in accidents in classrooms and during recess. Some teachers who experience this type of workplace injury are left with symptoms that are long lasting and debilitating.

One educational assistant describes how she was struck in the head with a football while she monitored recess. The impact on the side of her head caused everything to go black, but she managed to break her fall before she landed on the ground.

Campaign to address vehicle-related workplace accident risks

WorkSafeBC, through its Road Safety At Work initiative, is campaigning to reduce the number of lives lost in on-the-job vehicles accidents. The agency says workplace accident risks involving motor vehicles are significantly higher now than in 2014. This is underscored by the statistics that show fatalities caused by work-related vehicle accidents in 2018 accounted for 38% of all occupational deaths.

The Road Safety at Work campaign is focused on the need to limit crash-related injuries and deaths. Reportedly, more than 65% of employers in British Columbia employ drivers to operate company or private vehicles. While drivers must follow the company's road safety programs, procedures and policies, understand traffic laws and obey them, employers play a significant role in preventing vehicle accidents.

Employment law: There is no place for racial discrimination

Following a work-related back injury, a 45-year-old husband and father of two in British Columbia is without work, and must support himself with a cane to walk. The former sheet metal worker recently decided to go public with his struggles and the alleged discriminatory behaviour of a WorkSafeBC staff member.

Reportedly, the back injury occurred on the job back in 2017. The worker says his medical benefits and compensation for lost wages have already run out, and he is struggling to care for his family. WorkSafeBC entered him in the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program by which injured workers are assisted with securing employment that will accommodate their injuries. However, this man has not managed to secure another job, and believes his case manager is trying to force him to return to the same type of work he performed prior to his injury, despite being unable to do so as a result of his physical limitations.

British Columbia employment law focuses on keeping workers safe

Workers in British Columbia have the right to safe work environments. Employment law in Canada describes the roles of business owners, along with their rights and responsibilities. The law also mandates the responsibilities of employers, supervisors, contractors and workers.

Under the law, the primary responsibilities of business owners include providing safe workplaces and complying with prescribed occupational health and safety standards. They must also share information about potential hazards with employers and prime contractors to enable them to address the dangers. However, in cases in which the business owners are also the employers, they must comply with the responsibilities of both roles.

Employment law: Rights and responsibilities of employees

While it is true that employers in British Columbia are responsible for the health and safety of employees, workers also play a role in their own safety. Employment law mandates the rights and responsibilities of workers in all industries. Effective workplace safety requires all the involved parties to commit to their responsibilities.

Along with all their responsibilities, workers have three distinct rights. These include the right to be informed of all potential hazards, the right of participation in safety and health activities, and the right to refuse to do work that will threaten the worker's health or safety with no subsequent punishment. Workers must know that they also play essential roles in the safety of their co-workers.

Human Rights law: What constitutes retaliation?

Many workers' fear of losing their jobs may prevent them from filing human rights complaints at the BC Human Rights Tribunal against their employers when they encounter discrimination contrary to the protected grounds established under the BC Human Rights Code (the "Code"). However, employees in British Columbia are in fact protected against retaliation by employers under the Code.

But what type of action constitutes retaliation? Any change in normal work conditions for a worker who filed a human rights complaint or might file a complaint against an employer or supervisor could be viewed as retaliation, even if it does not involve termination. It is also unlawful to take action against an employee who provided evidence or otherwise supported a co-worker who filed a complaint.

Do you know your rights to compensation after a workplace injury?

Workers in British Columbia are entitled to financial assistance through the employer's WorkSafeBC insurance coverage. Coverage may extend to workplace injury caused by one event, as well as progressive conditions that result from exposure to chemicals or repetitive motions in a person's line of work over extended periods. 

Workers' compensation benefits typically cover applicable medical expenses, including medications, tests, equipment and treatment sessions. Workers whose injuries cause temporary disabilities that prevent them from working until they have recovered are entitled to temporary wage loss benefits. Permanent disability benefits are paid in cases where a work-related injury or illness causes a permanent disability that is likely to impair a worker's future earning capacity.

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