Harassment at work: a lot of claims, but little compensation

Harcèlement au travail: beaucoup de réclamations, mais peu d’indemnisations

Employees who say they are victims of psychological harassment in the workplace are more likely to claim compensation for the damages that they suffer, but the accepted applications are rare.

To the standards Commission, equity, health and safety in the workplace (CNESST), it receives each year several requests for the compensation for the psychological harassment suffered at work. These claims are made by employees who allege that this situation has caused them health problems. Therefore, they ask that we recognize a work-related injury.

Between 2014 and 2017, the CNESST has received an average of 335 claims per year. In 2018 and 2019, this number has seen a significant increase, climbing to 1081, then in 1259, according to figures obtained by the Law on access to information.

However, only a small proportion of applications is accepted. For the years 2014 to 2017, less than 15 % of them have led to compensation in average per year. In 2018 and 2019, this rate climbs a little, to 23 %.

Process heavy

For the lawyer Marc Bellemare, specializing in compensation, the process is heavy for the victims.

“The burden of proof is immense,” he said in an interview. It is up to the victim, in effect, that the burden of demonstrating that there has been harassment, it has caused an occupational disease, and that there is a link between the harassment and the state of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder that she lives.

The victim is also at a disadvantage because the forces are unequal, the judge, the lawyer.

“These are causes that are vigorously contested by employers, because it goes to the very heart of their management and of their credibility.” The employer has a lot of human and financial resources. “He has the money as he wants. The victim, she did not have it all.”

For the victim, the costs in legal fees and expert reports before the administrative Tribunal of work (TAT) can be raised to at least $ 10,000. And they are not refunded if she wins the case.

Folders analyzed

The CNESST has not specified the reasons for the many denials, limiting himself to say that “all categories of injury (work accident or occupational disease) are the subject of an analysis before making a decision of refusal, if any.”

The spokesperson Nicolas Bégin has also indicated that the increase in claims could be due to the process “much more streamlined and less cumbersome for the benefit of victims” which was implemented from 2016.

The government has funded in recent years various awareness programmes to combat workplace harassment.

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