September 21, 2017

Up to 9% of Canadians will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives, and it is well-recognized that exposure to traumatic events on the job plays a significant role in the prevalence of the disorder. PTSD is without a doubt a workplace issue that requires employers and unions to turn their minds to prevention, recognition and accommodation. In this session, an expert on the disorder will provide valuable background information on PTSD, its causes and symptoms, as well as practical suggestions for preventing workplace mental injury that may cause PTSD. Experienced counsel will provide a legal perspective on preventing traumatic workplace events and the duty to accommodate employees with PTSD.

  • Recognition: What is PTSD? How is a diagnosis of PTSD made? Do diagnostic criteria require a past experience of extreme physical danger? Is the PTSD diagnosis appropriately applied to someone who has experienced bullying or harassment that did not pose a “threat to the physical integrity” of that person or others? Are traumatic events likely to trigger other mental disabilities apart from or in addition to PTSD? What types of behaviour could indicate that an employee may have PTSD? Is an employer under a legal duty to inquire about an employee’s mental health if he or she is exhibiting such behaviours?
  • Prevention: What, if anything, can employers and unions do to prevent workplace mental injury that may result in workers developing PTSD? Do workplace parties have a legal obligation to take any reasonable action that may prevent such mental injuries? Are an employer’s legal duties regarding prevention fulfilled by developing policies and programs to prevent and respond to violence in the workplace? If not, what other measures is an employer required to take?
  • Accommodation: What medical information is the employer legally entitled to request in order to assess accommodation options? Does the actual diagnosis (i.e. whether it is PTSD or another mental disorder) make a difference for the purposes of identifying a person’s functional abilities? Does it make a difference in the legal obligations of workplace parties? Because PTSD is a mental disorder, should information from a psychiatrist or a psychologist be required? What types of accommodations are usually appropriate for employees with PTSD? How might PTSD affect an employee’s ability to participate in the accommodation process? From a medical/psychological perspective, what types of misconduct are likely to be caused by PTSD? How should employers respond to employees who engage in misconduct as a result of PTSD?