Fired Yukon compensation board worker's disability claim goes to court
A Whitehorse woman who was fired from her job with the Yukon Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety Boardhas taken her case to the territory's Appeal Court — not to dispute the firing itself, but to argue she's entitled to workers' compensation benefits because of the resulting stress.
On Thursday, a lawyer for Charolette O'Donnellasked the Yukon Court of Appeal to dismiss the Yukon government's bid to cut off her compensation benefits.
O'Donnell has been collecting disability payments from the compensation board since she was fired in 2002. She has argued she is entitled to benefits because getting fired was so stressful that she is still unable to work five years later.
In January 2002, O'Donnell was away from her regular job on a special assignmentwhen the worker who took over for her noticed some problems with the management of her files.
In August of that year, O'Donnell came back to her regular job and was asked about those files. Her superiors apparently did not like her answers, as they suspended her, pending further investigation.
Two days later, O'Donnell claimed disability benefits, claiming she suffered a psychological injury and wasn't able to work because of the stress of being disciplined.
She was fired a week later, but the compensation board accepted her psychological injury claim and approved her benefits.
The Yukon government appealed, and in November 2004 both sides eventually agreed to have an independent medical expert report on the case. That report backed the board's finding that O'Donnell was unable to work because of the stress from being fired.
Then in December 2005, the Workers' Compensation Board appeal tribunal ruled against O'Donnell, stating that she did not suffer a work-related disability. She appealed, and in January 2007, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower quashed the tribunal's decision and her benefits were reinstated.
The government is now appealing that decision, having expressed concern that O'Donnell's case may set a precedent. Lawyers for the government say it wantsa chance to argue the case before the Appeal Court.
O'Donnell's lawyer asked the court to dismiss the government's case and allow O'Donnell to get over her stress.
Justice J. Edward Richard overseeing the case said he needs more timebefore heissues a written decision.