Nfld. & Labrador

Injured workers group asks why WorkplaceNL gave Don Dunphy information to police

A group that speaks for injured workers says it is 'distressing' to hear that the organization which manages claims turned over personal information to police.

WorkplaceNL executive director says he only gave address, and police had the right to ask

Trish Dodd of the Injured Workers Association says she has concerns about how WorkplaceNL provided information about Don Dunphy to police. (CBC)

A group that speaks for injured workers in Newfoundland and Labrador says it is "very disturbing" to hear that the organization which manages claims from those workers turned over personal information to police in the Don Dunphy case.

"It was very distressing, very disturbing, because for injured workers — we know when we contact the commission, how much privacy is focused on," group spokesperson Trish Dodd told Here & Now on Thursday.

"It was alarming to think that information would be given to the police department. For what purpose?

'I think it's a form of intimidation [because of the tweets] ... What was the goal there? - Trish Dodd

Dodd was reacting to testimony at the judicial inquiry into the Easter Sunday 2015 shooting of Don Dunphy.

On Tuesday, the executive director of worker services for WorkplaceNL told the inquiry that he gave Dunphy's address to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer who later shot Dunphy during a visit to his home.

Tom Mahoney said he was contacted on Good Friday by the chair of WorkplaceNL who had received an email from Const. Joe Smyth. He subsequently called the officer to confirm Dunphy's post office box number and the town where he lived.

Tom Mahoney, executive director at WorkplaceNL, says he had no problem giving Dunphy's address to police even though Dunphy had been assessed as low risk. (CBC)

He said Smyth had other men named Don Dunphy on his list and wanted to determine which one had sent what the officer called "disconcerting" tweets to elected officials.

"They could have called the RCMP," said Dodd. "Why did they find it necessary to go to the workers compensation? I think it's a form of intimidation ... because of the tweets."

Dodd said if her group asks for information on behalf of an injured worker, "there's a form has to be signed. There's a protocol in place."

She believes the revelation causes additional stress for people who often have a fractious relationship with WorkplaceNL.

Dunphy assessed as 'low risk' and no threat

Don Dunphy was one of those frustrated clients, according to inquiry witnesses, and Mahoney agreed.

While he never met the man, and had not seen the tweets referenced by Smyth, other Dunphy tweets from December 2014 and February 2015 had been brought to his attention by WorkplaceNL staff.

"There was no threat made," Mahoney told the Inquiry on Tuesday, just "disparaging remarks."

For example, in December, the roof blew off Dunphy's house in Mitchells Brook and he tweeted he was living in 'a drained swimming pool ... Hope all WHSCC die.'

Mahoney said while the remarks were upsetting, there was nothing he could earmark as a threat or an intention to harm staff.

While Dunphy's social media comments were monitored, WorkplaceNL never went to police about him. He was assessed as "low risk."

Mahoney said three other WorkplaceNL clients had been reported to police, and were charged and convicted of threatening staff.

He couldn't recall another time when police contacted his organization looking for information.

He maintained providing Dunphy's address was something he is authorized to do under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if there was an investigation that could lead to a criminal proceeding.

Too many Don Dunphys

"What was the goal here?" asked Trish Dodd who said many injured workers already feel stigmatized and under suspicion.

There are "too many" Don Dunphys in the province, she said, and everybody injured at work has the "potential" to be a Don Dunphy.

Trish Dodd says there are many Don Dunpys in Newfoundland, people who are frustrated with the way their cases are handled by WorkplaceNL. (CBC)

"I am married to a man who was injured on the job, so I know what causes your frustration initially is your loss of income," said Dodd.

"You have an injury, and you're sick, and you're trying to survive and when you go through the workers comp system, the wage loss rate is set at 80 per cent ... it's not enough for people to survive."

With notes from Here & Now