(TORONTO, ON) – As announced by the WSIB on Friday December 15, 2017 and reported in the Toronto Star, the WSIB will no longer reduce Non-Economic Loss (NEL) awards for workers who had no prior symptoms of a pre-existing condition. In addition, the WSIB has committed to review 4,500 decisions dating back to 2012 when the practice of apportioning NELs due to non-symptomatic pre-existing conditions began.
This victory comes on the heels of OFL Convention in November where a resolution to address the WSIB’s unfair practice of reducing NEL awards due to pre-existing conditions was unanimously passed by delegates and adopted into the OFL Action Plan.
“Workers in Ontario are clear in their demands, they want a workers’ compensation system that respects the dignity of injured workers,” said Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. “Delegates to the OFL Convention demanded change, and I’m pleased to see the compensation board has chosen to take corrective action”, he added.
The fight for justice on this matter, however, has been a long running one with notable contributions to the efforts from Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO) legal clinic who published their “No Evidence” report earlier this year which reviewed all WSIAT decisions from 2016 wherein 626 decisions confirmed that the WSIB had denied workers’ entitlement to benefits without evidence to support their conclusions. Of those 626 cases 38 specifically dealt with the issue of benefits being reduced due to pre-existing non-symptomatic conditions.
In addition to IAVGO’s report, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Group (ONIWG) had launched a robust Workers’ Comp Is a Right campaign which has raised awareness and garnered significant support across the province on three key demands one of which is that benefits should not be reduced due to pre-existing conditions.
The issue of NEL award reduction related to pre-existing conditions was also the subject of a class action lawsuit filed in 2014 by lawyers Richard Fink and Alan McConnell. Despite the WSIB’s efforts to block the case, the lawsuit was deemed meritorious and was approved to proceed. The class action suit which stood to benefit hundreds of injured workers, has been now withdrawn given that the WSIB has agreed to stop its unfair practice and to review past denial decisions.
The unified and unrelenting efforts from Labour and injured worker advocates has resulted in this tremendous victory! Let’s hope these efforts and the momentum from this victory will positively influence other injustices faced by injured workers.
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