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Workers’ Compensation Cases Not Always Black and White

A common misconception about workers’ compensation claims is that they are very easy to determine. When a worker is clearly injured while performing work related duties, it would seem an approved claim would be imminent. What happens when the injury is the result of more questionable actions? What if the employee put themselves at risk without the knowledge or consent of the employer? Not all claims are easily determined and in unique cases, certain claims pose questions which even those experienced in the system have no answer.

Take for example a recent situation attracting major media attention. A Canadian worker is claiming post traumatic stress disorder after his employer ordered the killing of 100 sled dogs. CBC News reported an employee of Outdoor Adventures Whistler was ordered to kill the dogs after there was a drop in tourism following the closing of the 2010 winter Olympics. Despite public opinion of both the employer and in some cases the employee who carried out the killings, the man has been awarded workers’ compensation benefits for post traumatic stress disorder.

At first, his claim was denied on the basis that PTSD “did not arise out of a sudden and unexpected traumatic event”.
That decision was later overturned when details of the worker being attacked by one of the injured dogs were presented for consideration. Outdoor Adventures Whistler has disputed claims that the worker was instructed on how the dogs were to be killed, however they do admit knowing the dogs were to be killed, in what they understood to be a proper, humane and legal manner.

This controversial case touches not only on our emotions but also brings to light important questions regarding workers’ compensation claims. Who is responsible for injuries in this type of situation? Should it matter what actions caused the injury? Should a worker be denied compensation if the injury is the result of actions widely considered improper or immoral? Who decides where to draw the line and what if any actions disqualify a person from receiving workers’ compensation benefits?