O’Donnell was successful in her application for judicial review of a Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal decision finding that O’Donnell did not suffer a work-related disability as a result of a disciplinary suspension and termination of her employment

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Workers Compensation Boards – Benefits – Judicial review

O’Donnell (Re), [2007] Y.J. No. 9, Yukon Territory Supreme Court, January 19, 2007, Gower J.

O’Donnell was employed with the government and was suspended when inconsistencies in the management of her files was noted. O’Donnell claimed that she was injured mentally and physically as a result of the suspension and subsequent termination. She claimed Workers’ Compensation benefits and the Adjudicator allowed the claim, having determined that the worker suffered disability as defined by the Act and Board policy, specifically an illness described as an adjustment disorder. The medical evidence reviewed indicated that the worker suffered from severe anxiety and mood symptoms and was unfit to work. This decision was subsequently reversed by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) and O’Donnell sought judicial review of the Tribunal’s decision.

O’Donnell’s application was allowed and the Tribunal’s decision was quashed. The matter was remitted for reconsideration. The Court held that the Tribunal committed a reviewable error by failing to consider s. 6 of the Act, which presumed disability to be work-related unless the contrary was shown. The Tribunal also committed a reviewable error by failing to consider the presumption in Policy CL-2, which presumed a disability to have arisen out of and in the course of employment, unless shown the disability was not work-related. The Tribunal had misapplied the Policy by finding that a causal relationship between the worker’s activities and the capacity to work had to be established for a claim to be compensable. The Tribunal further erred in failing to consider the Policy respecting pre-existing conditions as potentially applicable. If the Tribunal had considered that Policy, it would have been directed to find that if the worker’s pre-existing generalized anxiety disorder was a condition made worse by the effect of a compensable condition, her anxiety disorder was to be considered compensable to the extent that it deteriorated as a result of the suspension and termination. The Tribunal had failed to give proper consideration to the medical opinion that O’Donnell was incapacitated by the psychological condition arising from her employment suspension and termination. This condition initially manifested as an adjustment disorder, but then progressed to become an incapacitating major depressive episode.

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