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Workplace injury, illness claim for cancer allowed by B.C court

The potential hazards of a workplace are highly varied, and may even be unique to a particular profession or location. As such, what defines a workplace injury can be equally varied. In fact, some conditions that result from work hazards are not visible to the naked eye. In a recent case before the Supreme Court of Canada, a group of British Columbia workers fought for the right to claim compensation for a serious illness they believed developed as a direct result of where they work.

Three laboratory workers have been battling for the right to worker's compensation for about 15 years after all three were diagnosed with breast cancer. It is their contention that exposure to carcinogens at the lab where they work directly caused their disease. As evidence, they submitted statistics showing that the rate of breast cancer at the lab was eight times what it is in the general population of British Columbia. There was no corroborating scientific evidence provided in support of the claim.

WorkSafeBC denied the claim, citing a lack of evidence. An appeal to the B.C. Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) resulted in the overturning of that decision, even after an appeal from the employer. The employer appealed again, this time to the British Columbia Supreme Court, and the WCAT decision was reversed. On June 24, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the workers, and allowed them to proceed with a claim. In the ruling, it was determined that the statistical evidence was enough to support the claim.

As more conditions are recognized as potentially work-related, such as cancer or PTSD, the opportunity for much-needed compensation is becoming available to afflicted workers. Not every case will be successful, of course, even if it seems merited. A lawyer familiar with employment law in British Columbia may be able to offer advice on a person's rights, and can assist with efforts to seek compensation for serious illness suffered on the job, or any kind of workplace injury.

Source: cos-mag.com, "Workers' compensation tribunals have broad ability to weigh evidence", David Marchione 21, Nov. 21, 2016

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