Sep 282019
 

By Gerald

Over the course of my 30 years involving workers compensation specific to the “Act”, WCB Policies, WCB Regulations, Federal Human Rights Commission, Provincial  Human Rights Commission Services Canada (CPP disability), Civil litigation, Family Law, Criminal Law, Charter, Judicial Reviews, one of the biggest problems within the workers compensation system is translation of the WCA and WCB Policies.

Most work related injuries involve pain. Most workers recover from their injuries and pain is no longer a factor, however for many workers pain does not go away and becomes chronic without any discernible organic reason. Non discernible chronic pain is compensable which is confusing for Case Managers, DRDRB and the Appeals Commission who are not doctors or lawyers specializing in workers compensation and are thus totally unaware that the Supreme Court of Canada determined that chronic pain must be recognized and compensation be provided as it is for any other physical or mental injury.

WCB Policy 03-01 Part II Application 7 is a two part policy specific to chronic pain and chronic pain syndrome which at first blush seems to provide only medical treatment for chronic pain which is obviously illegal but provides compensation for chronic pain syndrome which would then include compensation (medical treatment, loss of earnings and vocational rehabilitation). Many workers are under the false impression that if they want full compensation, they must be diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome to receive full compensation which is not true as chronic pain in itself is totally compensable and supported by the SCC specific to the Martin/Laseur case based on Section 15.1 of the Charter. In Alberta discrimination is under the jurisdiction of the Alberta Human Rights Commission and a complaint can be filed against WCB under the protected category of “disability” and the area of discrimination would be “services”

According to decisions made by the Appeals Commission when translating Policy 03-01 Part II Application 7, the Appeals Commission most likely because of inexperience and ignorance which is a common trait have not considered that the SCC has determined that chronic pain is “totally” compensable, not just providing medical treatment. WCB and the Appeals Commission incorrectly assume that entitlement of a worker diagnosed with chronic pain consists of medical treatment only without any compensation of an earning loss or vocational rehabilitation which is not in compliance with Section 15.1 of the Charter or Alberta Human Rights Act. A study by Noonan and Wagner determined that Alberta was one of the provinces that had not complied with legal precedence (SCC) and have continued to provide only medical treatment for chronic pain but no compensation for an earning loss or vocational rehabilitation which is illegal. The question is “why has the Appeals Commission not addressed the issue of non compliance as a quasi-judicial body to ensure that all workers are treated equally” leaving workers with no  alternative but to file a complaint with the AHRC who have the authority and jurisdiction to hear the complaint. WCB and the Appeals Commission incorrectly believe that because Section 6 (a) of the WCA provides the WCB BoD to determine policy which if interpreted correctly, policy must comply with the “Act”, the Charter and Human Rights legislation.

The Alberta Government was aware that WCB did not provide full compensation for chronic pain other than medical treatment and along with WCB, DRDRB and the Appeals Commission covered this up rather than enacting chronic pain regulations as was done by the Nova Scotia Government who in order to comply with the Supreme Court of Canada decision specific to chronic pain in the Martin/Laseur case enacted their chronic pain regulations which provided full compensation for chronic pain and not simply medical treatment as was and is the only part of a full compensation package provided by the Alberta WCB which workers are entitled to. The importance of receiving a PCI rating for chronic pain  which WCB does not provide is that without a PCI rating a worker is not entitled to a disability pension prior to Jan, 1, 1995 as WCB illegally has equated a PCI rating to a disability rating and after Jan 1, 1995, without a PCI rating a worker is not eligible for a NELP.

Of course chronic pain is only one of the many human rights complaints that WCB is guilty of but workers do not understand that at any time they have been treated differently from some one else and can prove it on a prima facie basis, they can file a human rights complaint which at present under a new Director and Commissioner is being taken more seriously than before under the old regime.

Mar 252019
 

By Gerald

The following reason is why the Alberta Human Rights Commission are dismissing complaints without investigating the legitimacy of the complaint. As well, any prima facie evidenced complaints specific to WCB are dismissed most likely on the direction of the Justice Minster and Minister in charge of the WCB;

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has put in place the Case Inventory Resolution Program in an effort to reduce a massive backlog of cases. For the past seven years the number of complaints received by the Commission has exceeded the Commission’s capacity to process them. Those unresolved complaints are carried forward into the next year resulting in a growing backlog of complaints. As a result, it can take up to 2 years for a complaint to reach the conciliation stage and approximately 4 years for a complaint to reach the investigation stage.

The Chief of the Commission, Michael Gottheil spoke on March 11, 2019 to the Canadian Bar Association Labour & Employment south section about the new program for addressing the backlog of cases at the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The Case Inventory Resolution Program

As part of the change all complaints filed before January 1, 2019 will be placed in the Case Inventory Resolution Program, which will consist of an investigation team and a conciliation team.

  1. Investigation Team

There are currently 300 complaints in the investigation queue that have been through conciliation but were not successful in reaching a resolution and are now waiting for a Human Rights Officer to investigate.

The investigation team has been assigned to address the cases in the investigation queue. The team will consist of 4 Human Rights Officers, the Director and a Project Lead. The Human Rights Officers will be assigned 5 cases per week and the entire team will meet weekly to review the files.

The Human Rights Officers will review each case, gather additional information from the parties and may request specific information and submissions on whether the case should be dismissed or not. The parties will have 30 days to respond to the request.

Once all the material has been gathered, the Human Rights Officer will review the file and the parties submissions and discuss with the team. The Director will make a decision on whether the case should be dismissed or not.

The Chief of the Commission anticipates the 300 cases will be assessed within 4-6 months.

  1. Conciliation Team

There are currently 1200 to 1300 complaints waiting to be assigned to a conciliator to conduct conciliation.

The conciliation team has been assigned to address the cases in the conciliation queue. The team will consist of 6 Human Rights Officers, the Director and a Project Lead. The Human Rights Officers will be assigned 4 cases per week.

Initially, the Human Rights Officers will contact parties who have cases in this queue to inform them of the process, gather background information and schedule an in-person conciliation meeting 6-8 weeks down the road. Prior to the meeting the Human Rights Officer may contact the parties by phone and gather any additional evidence.

At the meeting, the conciliator will assist the parties in coming up with a resolution. If a resolution is reached, parties will sign a Memorandum of Agreement and Release. If no resolution is reached at the meeting, the conciliator will write a case summary with a recommendation to the Director. If the recommendation is to proceed to Tribunal, the conciliator will be encouraged to make a non-binding settlement recommendation.

The Director will then decide whether the case is dismissed or sent to Tribunal.

The Respondent will also be encouraged to make a settlement offer at this stage. The Respondent can request that the Director exercise their discretion under section 22 of the Alberta Human Rights Act to discontinue if the Complainant does not accept the offer.

The Chief of the Commission anticipates the 1200 – 1300 cases will be dealt with in 12-18 months and the conciliation team will likely start in May.

More information on the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Case Inventory Resolution Program can be found here.

Jun 192012
 

 

Click on the following link: Re-thinking Workers’ Compensation-The Human Rights Perspective

Re-thinking Workers’ Compensation-The Human Rights Perspective, the June 2012 special open-access issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, is now available online. These articles emerged from background papers prepared for the national meeting, “Rethinking Workers’ Compensation: Developing Strategies to Protect Injured/Ill Workers’ Basic Human Rights” convened by NESRI in 2010. Authors include Emily Spieler, John Burton, Jeffrey Hilgert, Katherine Lippel, Rebecca Smith and Martha McCluskey.

In the journal commentary, guest editor Les Boden writes, “The articles in this special issue propose an alternate framework and analysis, a human rights approach that values the dignity and economic security of injured workers and their families.” Mainstream debates around workers’ compensation are very technical, market-driven and cost oriented. The focus is rarely on meeting the needs of injured/ ill workers. This discourse ignores the plight of the injured/ill workers and their grave suffering as they navigate workers’ compensation systems that often function poorly on multiple levels. A human rights framework mandates that those most directly and negatively impacted by a system, in this case injured/ill workers, be at the center of any discussion concerning system reform. Contributors to the AJIM special issue accordingly highlight the many failures of workers’ compensation and explore pro-worker strategies, solutions and alternatives that are grounded in the experiences of injured/ill workers and designed to advance their rights. For a brief overview of the journal articles, click here. To access the articles directly, click here.

Many of you who receive my e-mails may recognize the name of Dr. Emily Spieler who I have had the privilege of corresponding with and being supported by her during my 7 year fight with the American Medical Association and the Alberta WCB. With her assistance and the co-operation of Dr. Brigham (Editing Chair of the AMA Guides 6th Edition), the AMA Guides were changed to reflect my criticism of the previous “Guides” prior to the release of the AMA Guides 6th Edition which changed significantly from the 5th to the 6th Edition. Many of you also know that the Alberta WCB were forced to admit that they were wrong as to their understanding of how to assess impairment when using the AMA Guides and rather than assess an impairment rating using the AMA Guides as directed by Dr. Talmage (AMA Medical Consultant) reverted to the use of the Alberta Guides which were the old meat charts used by all workers compensation systems in Canada who have abandoned the use of those antiquated earlier guides put together by Dr. Bell in 1960 which are still being used by the Alberta WCB. The Alberta Guides do not recognize chronic pain in any of their impairment ratings whereas the AMA Guides do. Legally, based on the Martin decision, the Alberta WCB is not in compliance with the Supreme court’s decision to recognize chronic pain as being a compensable condition. The Alberta WCB recognizes chronic pain only if it results in an earning loss but does not assess an impairment rating for a discernible diagnosed medical condition. The Alberta WCB must provide an impairment rating for chronic pain just as the Nova Scotia WCB had to and noticeably also is that the BC workers compensation board amongst others provide an impairment rating for chronic pain. A chronic pain rating must also be assessed for conventional impairment ratings and must be added to or combined with other assessed impairment ratings. Not doing this is a human rights violation or a violation of Section 15.1 of the Charter.

Dr. Spieler and her colleagues continue to be a thorn in the sides of workers compensation systems and as well as the Government’s involvement in creating legislation that strips workers of their rights and loss of dignity after suffering a work related injury. The system was and is not meant to be adversarial and was the reason why the system went to an administrative system instead of having claims heard before the courts. As it stands now, the system as it stands now was better 100 years ago then what it is today because of legislation brought in by Governments over the years to protect the “Boards” at the detriment of workers.

I would suggest that you click on all the links within the article to read the full versions of the studies and comments of the authors of the studies.

 

Gerry Miller