New Brunswick's workers' compensation board is repaying close to $4 million to 901 people as a result of a court ruling earlier this year that concluded it was wrong to claw back injury benefit payments from Canada Pension Plan recipients.
The claims, which date back over 20 years, were identified following a provincial Court of Appeal decision in April, a spokeswoman for WorkSafeNB said Wednesday.
Mary Tucker said the Crown agency believed its policy of clawing back workers' compensation payments from people receiving the Canada Pension Plan was in line with the Workers' Compensation Act.
"The implications of the Court of Appeal decision have been assessed and case management staff are actively working to implement the directions given by the court and provide redress to those affected," Tucker said in an email.
"Many have already received payments and others are in process."
An appeals tribunal repeatedly rejected WorkSafeNB's interpretation of the Act and overturned its decisions in individual cases. The Court of Appeal backed the tribunal's position, saying in its April 5 ruling that it "has been right all along."
Tucker declined to explain why WorkSafeNB followed the tribunal's decisions in individual cases but didn't change its overall policy of clawing back workers' compensation payments. She said WorkSafeNB would not comment further.
Amon Ross said he had to leave his job as a carpenter in 1999 after falling from a ladder. He received disability payments as a result from 2000 to 2005, but that was partially clawed back.
Ross, 72, said he was repaid that money from WorkSafeNB in June. But he added that the clawbacks left him in financial distress.
"I had to withdraw all of my RRSPs, trying to make a pension out of it," he said from his home in Tabusintac in northern New Brunswick. "I had to put it into a (Retirement Income Fund) so I can get a little bit more pension to get on with my life in 2000."
Ross said he believes he is due interest.
"If I would have had that money in 2000 I would have earned interest on it."
WorkSafeNB's repayments come following the case of Wayne Douthwright, who was injured on Oct. 18, 2002, while working at a sawmill in Sussex, N.B.
Douthwright's claim for workers' compensation was accepted and he eventually became entitled to long-term disability benefits, which he began receiving in August 2009. Those monthly payments were $766.
After turning 60, he chose to collect Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits at a diminished rate. Those benefits totalled $547.07 per month, which he started receiving in September 2009.
In June 2010, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission — now known as WorkSafeNB — told him his long-term disability benefits would be reduced by the amount of his retirement benefits and that he would have to reimburse the commission for overpayments.
Douthwright appealed that decision to the appeal tribunal, which sided with him. His employer, JD Irving Ltd., appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeal, but lost.