A Quebec woman who says her disability pay for depression was cancelled because of her Facebook profile has lost her first bid to have her benefits restored while she battles her insurance company.
Nathalie Blanchard, 29, made headlines around the world when she went public this fall with her fight against Manulife, the insurance company underwriting her long-term disability leave for depression.
Blanchard, a Granby resident, took sick leave from her job at IBM last year, after she was diagnosed with major depression. She has since taken different approaches to treat her mood disorder, including prescription medication and therapy. Under doctor's orders, she has also tried to have fun.
Photographs of that fun — a beach holiday last year, a night out on the town with friends — are part of the evidence Manulife used to stop payments this fall. Blanchard said the company told her that based on her Facebook photos, she looked well enough to work.
Manulife stopped paying her sick-leave benefits, and her mortgage company, Desjardins, ended her insurance payments.
While her lawyer, Tom Lavin, presses Manulife, Desjardins and IBM to review the case, Blanchard went to court this week to ask for a temporary reinstatement of her benefits until a final decision is made. The judge who heard her request at the Cowansville courthouse refused.
"I feel tired," Blanchard told CBC News after the hearing Tuesday. She said she is still recovering from depression and has good and bad days.
Hearing sheds light on Manulife's case
Blanchard may not have benefits for the time being, but the court hearing will help her case in the long run, Lavin said.
Lawyers representing IBM and Manulife had to file several documents from their medical experts, who evaluated Blanchard's state of mind prior to her leave.
The documents included a letter from a psychiatrist who first evaluated Blanchard and determined she was too depressed to work.
According to the documents filed in court, the psychiatrist changed his opinion a few months later, Lavin said.
"They alluded to the fact that they had copies of her Facebook account and an investigative report, both of which they submitted to the psychiatrist, and on the basis of which their psychiatrist reversed his decision," he said.
That evidence will help Blanchard build her case over the coming months, Lavin said. But it may take up to a year for her to actually get a trial.
Manulife has refused interview requests about Blanchard's case but told CBC News that it would never base a benefits claim solely on Facebook. IBM has also declined comment.