Employee Mental Health

Employee Mental Health

Short Term Disability and Employee Mental Health

Work places are changing. Instant access to information and communication has raised the bar for performance at workplaces. We are working longer and harder and a competitive job market has lead employers to expect a lot more from their employees than ever before. Throw into this a good dose of incivility, rudeness and bullying from co-workers and bosses, and a picture of the contemporary toxic workplace starts to emerge.

Workplace stress affects more and more Canadians each year. In over 30 years of practice in the area of employment law, we have noticed some sinister trends:

  • Job stress often leads to mental health illnesses;
  • It is the leading cause for Short Term Disability claims at work.
  • Employees are particularly susceptible to it in their prime working years.
  • After returning from STD leave, they face more of the same and their stress related illness recurs.
  • Most employees fear losing their jobs due to the stigma of mental health.

CBC Radio recently spoke to Christine Porath, who has studied this subject in detail. She claims that these types of toxic work environments lead to lowered morale, lower creativity and an overall reduction in the productivity of the workforce.

So why don’t employers “get it”? Would it not be in their best interest to weed out bad behaviour at work? Maybe they simply don’t understand what bullying is?

Employee Mental Health

Employee Mental Health – Creative Commons [Flickr -Crispy]


Bullying looks no different at work than it does in the playground. It is meant to intimidate, offend or humiliate; it can be a single action or a series of repeated incidents; it can include negative behaviour or comments that hurt or isolate a person; it directly assaults a person’s dignity through belittlement and degradation.

Here are specific examples of what bullying looks like at work:

  • Unilaterally reducing responsibilities to make you feel “useless”;
    Constantly changing work guidelines, making it impossible for you to succeed;
  • Creating unreasonable deadlines in order to set you up to fail;
    Assigning you duties that are impossible for a single person to complete;
  • Overworking you through excessive over-time; and
    Providing unwarranted negative performance reviews.

If you are going through any of this at work, you need to seek legal help. Not doing so will result in an escalation of your problems from feeling frustrated, helpless and vulnerable, to suffering from lack of sleep and appetite. At its worst, you will feel panic and anxiety at the thought of going to work and eventually, your doctor will recommend a leave of absence for stress related mental illness.

And, in our opinion, this is when your problems really BEGIN.

If Short Term Disability Leave is part of your workplace benefits package, here is what you need to know:

Many `cheap` STD plans are funded by your employer – i.e your employer pays your benefit (not the insurance company); the so-called insurance administrator is simply hired to handle your case on behalf of your employer. It follows that all the medical information being requested by this administrator will find its way back to your employer.

Your claim will be rejected multiple times and delayed. It is not in your employer’s best interest to pay for this benefit; you will face delays for an answer, the insurance company will march you from physician to physician for numerous opinions and no matter what, they will not agree with your own physician’s assessment of the severity of your illness.

The process will leave your head spinning and your mental health condition will likely worsen.

Together, the insurance administrator and employer will frustrate you into either returning to work prematurely, or quitting

If you are fortunate to eventually have your claim paid, it will only be temporary and inconsistent with what your physician recommends.

After you return to work, your employer, now fully aware of your medical history, will start treating you as “damaged goods`. The stigma of having a mental illness will follow you like a shadow. They will resist any accommodation requested by your doctor, such as a light duty or a gradual return to your full duties. You will face threats, intimidation, harassment or termination, a term known as constructive dismissal.

This is a cycle we, at Lecker & Associates, have seen time and again. Unfortunately, we usually see clients when they are at the tail end of this vicious treatment.

So, before you commence down the spiral of going on STD leave for mental health illness, we urge you to recognize the signs of workplace related stress. Call us the minute feelings of frustration, helplessness and vulnerability set in. Our team of experienced employment lawyers will empower you with what you need to know about mitigating bullying at work. And this will save you a lot of trouble down the road with your health and employment.

If you are already in the unfortunate stage of having your STD claim rejected multiple times, we can definitely help. This is our niche of specialty. One of our experienced Toronto Disability Claim Lawyers will take over your file, leaving you to do exactly what your doctor prescribed – take the time away from stresses to recover from your illness.

We will aggressively negotiate for your benefits with the insurance administrator and your employer. We do not waste time with the internal appeals process – we know it all too well and have all the legal arguments to beat them at their own game. Bullying is against the law. Denying your benefits is also against the law; and making you suffer needlessly to claim something you are entitled to contravenes the Human Rights Act.

If the matter of our fees is of concern, please call us, first. For almost all STD and LTD claims cases, our fees are based on a percentage of what we can collect for you and we pay ourselves when you receive your benefits.

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