Can An Employer Be Punished For Attempting to Persuade An Injured Worker From Submitting An Injury Claim?

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 Contains Sections That May Result In Significant Penalties Imposed Upon An Employer That Attempts to Persuade or Prevent An Injured Worker From Making An Injury Claim.

Understanding the Obligation to Refrain From Attempts to Dissuade the Making of Claims By An Injured Worker

Lawsuit Document An employer, for improper reasons, may prefer to keep the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board uninvolved following a workplace injury suffered by an employee. To avoid involving the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board, the employer may attempt to discourage the employee from reporting the workplace injury details and from filing a compensation claim.

The Law

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, Chapter 16, Schedule A, expressly forbids an employer from attempting to discourage the filing of a compensation claim following a workplace incident that results in the injury to a worker. Specifically, the Act states:


Prohibition, claim suppression

22.1 (1) No employer shall take any action, including but not limited to the prohibited actions set out in subsection (2), in respect of a worker with the intent of,

(a)  discouraging or preventing the worker from filing a claim for benefits under section 22; or

(b)  influencing or inducing the worker to withdraw or abandon a claim for benefits made under section 22.

Same

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the following actions are prohibited:

1.  Dismissing or threatening to dismiss a worker.

2.  Disciplining or suspending, or threatening to discipline or suspend a worker.

3.  Imposing a penalty upon a worker.

4.  Directly or indirectly intimidating or coercing a worker with threats, promises, persuasion or other means.

Administrative penalty

(3) An employer who contravenes subsection (1) shall pay the prescribed amount to the Board.  This payment is in addition to any penalty imposed by a court for an offence under section 155.1.

Potential Penalties

The wrongful attempt to dissuade an employee from claiming injury benefits raises the possibility of a significant penalty whereas the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, prescribes the potential of a fine or imprisonment or both.  Specifically, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, states:


Offence, claim suppression

155.1 An employer who contravenes section 22.1 is guilty of an offence.

...

Penalty

158 (1) A person who is convicted of an offence is liable to the following penalty:

1.  If the person is an individual, he or she is liable to a fine not exceeding $25,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both.

2.  If the person is not an individual, the person is liable to a fine not exceeding $500,000.

Fines

(2) Any fine paid as a penalty for a conviction under this Act shall be paid to the Board and shall form part of the insurance fund.

As above, a penalty for an offence, which is payable to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, may be very significant.

An interesting issue and decision arose within Eynon v. Simplicity Air Ltd., 2021 ONCA 409, which was a civil litigation brought about following a determination by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board that a workplace incident arose due to horseplay between workers rather than as an actual workplace accident, whereas the Court of Appeal refused to deny a punitive damages award that was granted at Trial and which was supported, partly, by the lack of a penalty being imposed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.  Specifically, in the Eynon case, it was said:


[12]  There was sufficient evidence that a properly instructed jury, acting reasonably, could have awarded punitive damages. The supervisors’ instructions to an injured employee to falsely report that he was injured at home, without more, warranted an award of punitive damages. The jury could properly regard these instructions as misconduct offensive to ordinary standards of decent conduct expected of an employer and could be properly described as highly reprehensible. Such instructions contravene s. 22.1 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 16, Sched. A. (“WSIA”), and constitute an offence under s. 155.1 of WSIA. Had the appellant been prosecuted and a penalty imposed under s. 158(1) of WSIA the need for punitive damages would have been lessened: see Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Co., 2002 SCC 18, [2002] 1 S.C.R. 595, at para. 123.

Summary Comment

An injured employee has the right to report an injury, and to seek compensation, among other benefits, from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.  An employer has a duty to refrain from unduly influencing, or attempting to influence, an employee from reporting an injury and making injury compensation claims.

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